Yorkshire will be bracing themselves for more interest from the England selectors after Gary Ballance maintained his hugely impressive form by completing a third century in eight Championship innings as Yorkshire's title credentials were subjected to a tough examination by the side they are seeking to depose as champions.
Warwickshire arrived in Leeds having at last found some form following an inconsistent start to the defence of their crown and stand-in captain Varun Chopra's decision to back his bowlers to perform on a greenish pitch – and against an opponent a front-line batsman light – looked a fairly sound tactic, especially when Yorkshire lost two wickets in the space of eight deliveries to be 26 for 2.
Led by Keith Barker and Chris Woakes, with Boyd Rankin and Rikki Clarke backing up, Chopra had a high-quality quartet of seamers at his disposal and they did not let him down. It was simply that Ballance – aided primarily by the precociously talented Alex Lees – had their measure.
He was impressive enough in the morning session, when the ball beat the bat with dangerous regularity, supporting 20-year-old Lees in steering Yorkshire through to lunch with no further losses. Although neither gave a chance, the two left-handers had their moments of good fortune, but at the same time had the discipline to let plenty of balls pass them by.
After his 275 against Derbyshire in rather different circumstances two weeks ago, Lees faced an altogether tougher assignment, but while a first half-century on home ground did not turn out to be the platform for another big score it was a commendable effort.
But he was outshone comprehensively by Ballance, whose statistics in the Championship this year make startlingly good reading. In 13 innings he has scored 52 or more eight times and averages 61.69, his three hundreds including a Championship-best 141 at Scarborough would have made headlines had it not been overshadowed by Andrew Gale's 272.
Gale departed for a third-ball duck, after which he must have drawn some relief from watching Ballance hit 14 fours and a six, which arrived with perfect timing on 94 when he hit off-spinner Jeetan Patel back over his head. Missing Phil Jaques and Joe Sayers through injury – and with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow otherwise engaged – captain Gale has not many batsmen to pick from.
The total might have looked a miserable one had Ballance not delivered, as watching England selector James Whitaker will have noted. The stats say Ballance should be worthy of equal consideration with James Taylor. It may not be long before he is.Reuse content