Yorkshire’s captain, Andrew Gale, completed his second century of an inconsistent season but faces a critical decision over the timing of his declaration if it is to be the basis of a victory in a match they need to win to regain pole position in the Championship race.
His side has a lead of 421 going into the final day, having resisted any temptation to expose Middlesex to a burst of Ryan Sidebottom before last night’s close in Scarborough, no doubt wary of being too generous, given that Middlesex scored 472 in the fourth innings at Lord’s in April to beat Yorkshire. Whether 96 overs today, assuming a declaration overnight, will be enough for Yorkshire to bowl out Middlesex after only four wickets fell on day three remains to be seen.
Gale’s century was both a popular and painful one on a ground where he now has four hundreds, including his career-best 272 against Nottinghamshire last season. This one, which had spanned more than four hours and included 13 fours when he left the field 126 not out, saw him dropped from a difficult chance at point on 40, hit on the left thumb on 46 and the left elbow on 97, both blows inflicted by the England bowler Steven Finn.
With Middlesex’s bowlers not able to do much with the ball in much fresher conditions, Yorkshire added 117 runs at not far short of four an over with no wickets lost in the morning session, with Kane Williamson and Alex Lees completing half-centuries.
They suffered a double setback early in the afternoon session, when Williamson and Lees departed in turn inside the first five overs, both falling to Tim Murtagh. Williamson, shaping to cut, top-edged a ball that climbed on him and the towering Ollie Rayner managed to pluck it out of the air at first slip. Then Lees, pushing forward, edged low to second slip, where Dawid Malan claimed the catch. The pair added 132 in just under 40 overs.
Jonny Bairstow fell for 32, top-edging a pull off Toby Roland-Jones to be caught at long leg. However, Gale received impressive support from 20-year-old Jack Leaning, who batted with care and composure before unleashing a sequence of impressive blows towards the close, hitting three sixes in the space of four balls faced, against Finn, Rayner and Malan, finally to be stumped off Malan for 76, the end of a stand of 182.