SCOREBOARD pressure can do funny things.
When Yorkshire batted, it seemed as though the only likelihood of a result being achieved in this match was if Theresa May intervened by negotiating an extension to it from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
As the visitors amassed 554-7 declared, their highest Championship total for almost three years, the pitch looked so flat that it resembled a party at which there is no music or alcohol and the only topic of conversation is Brexit and the Irish backstop.
But in the final session of the second day, beneath cloudy skies and beaming floodlights, Hampshire slipped to 74-3 in reply, needing 405 to avoid the follow-on.
Although conditions remain in favour of batsmen, with Yorkshire’s filling their boots during 164 overs at the crease, Hampshire’s key man James Vince is back in the pavilion and the visiting bowlers are smelling blood.
The pressure of that scoreboard could yet be significant, as it was in the previous game here only last week.
Then, the roles were reversed as Hampshire scored 525-8 declared before twice skittling Essex to win by an innings and 87 runs.
Can the hosts now show an appetite for survival? Time will tell, but Gary Ballance, who top-scored for Yorkshire with 148, believes that the visitors are handily-placed.
“We got a very good first innings score, batted for a long time and then to take three wickets at the end was a great effort,” he said. “It puts us in a strong position.
“It’s a pretty good wicket, but if you put the ball in the right area for long enough, there is a little bit there and you can create chances.
It’s a pretty good wicket, but if you put the ball in the right area for long enough, there is a little bit there and you can create chances.Gary Ballance
“Hopefully, in the next two days, we can create 17 chances.”
Commenting on his own form, Ballance said: “It’s good to contribute. We’ve played on some good wickets so far and I’m just enjoying my cricket.
“It’s nice to help the team into a strong position and everyone’s contributed and looked in good form.
“We’ve talked about being more ruthless with the bat and that’s what we’ve done. For us to put a price on our wickets and get big scores really sets us up well for the rest of the season.”
Ballance already had 120 to his name when Yorkshire started day two on 310-3. Proceedings continued in the same free-scoring manner as on the first day, Ballance and nightwatchman Steve Patterson lifting their fourth-wicket stand to 80 before Ballance feathered behind a short ball from Gareth Berg that followed him as he tried to drop his hands and sway out of the way.
Ballance’s innings, which spanned 308 balls and included 15 fours, lifted his aggregate at this venue to 1,007 runs in eight first-class matches for Yorkshire and England.
Were he ever to leave Yorkshire, an unthinkable proposition, it is a fair bet that Hampshire would prove a preferred destination.
Ballance has no intention of going anywhere, of course, with the possible exception of back into the England Test side if he continues his excellent start to the season, kicked off with a century in last week’s opening match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
Ballance scoring bucket-loads of runs is just what the selectors need, one is tempted to wisecrack, but they cannot ignore him in this sort of mood.
After removing Ballance yesterday, Berg struck again in his next over when Patterson slashed to point, the Yorkshire captain contributing a useful 34 from 72 balls. Bat continued to dominate as Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Jack Leaning compiled 71 in 23 overs, Kohler-Cadmore striking 41 from 77 deliveries before spinner Liam Dawson trapped him lbw.
Leaning went to a confidence-boosting half-century from 116 balls, his first in first-class cricket since he made 54 not out in the corresponding fixture last June.
He then shared in a seventh-wicket stand of 95 with Jonny Tattersall, who struck 52 from 83 balls before he tried to launch Dawson over mid-wicket and skewed to cover.
Leaning finished on 77 not out from 152 balls with seven fours as Yorkshire recorded their highest Championship total since striking 557-6 declared against Surrey at Headingley in May 2016.
Leaning’s was his highest Championship innings since he made 85 against Middlesex at Headingley in September 2017, a statement of intent from a player determined to bounce back from a couple of lean years.
Vince departed in the fifth over of Hampshire’s reply, caught at first slip by Kohler-Cadmore as he tried to defend a ball from Ben Coad.
Duanne Olivier found a bit of extra bounce to have Joe Weatherley caught behind in the next over, after which Aiden Markram and Sam Northeast added 59 in 18 overs. But Markram gave it away at the end, skipping down the track to Leaning’s off-spin and picking out Ballance at deep mid-wicket.