Ballance tips game Yorkshire’s way
Ballance tips game Yorkshire’s way

Former England batsman Gary Ballance dominated centre stage for almost six-and-a-half hours to put Yorkshire in total control of their Specsavers County Championship match with Kent in Canterbury.

In ideal batting conditions at the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence and on a pitch deadened by third-morning use of the heavy roller, the 29-year-old left-hander hit 25 boundaries in a season’s best 159 from 291 balls as Yorkshire amassed 469 for a lead of 383 runs.

In the day’s 10 remaining overs, the hosts lost Sean Dickson only eight balls into the reply. Having been hit of the bicep by a fierce no ball bumper from Duanne Olivier, Dickson turned the next delivery to Harry Brook under the helmet at short leg.

In the fifth over Zak Crawley, on nine, pushed half-forward and outside the line of a Ben Coad off-cutter to go lbw, then in his next over, Coad ripped out the off and leg stumps of Matt Renshaw with another low-bouncing off-cutter to end the Australian Test batsman’s final innings of his disappointing Kentish stay.

The hosts suffered no further alarms and went in at stumps on 34 for three with Daniel Bell-Drummond yet to get off the mark with night watchman Fred Klaassen (3*). They will require a further 352 for victory on the final day but, with the pitch showing signs of variable bounce, their target already seems highly improbable.

Earlier, Ballance and fourth-wicket partner Jack Leaning batted throughout the morning session without alarm and went on to add 188 in 61 overs either side of lunch with Leaning reaching his 50 from 168 balls and with 10 fours.

The stand ended in the mid-session when Leaning, on 69, played across one from Matt Milnes to become only the second leg before victim of the game.

Zimbabe-born Ballance had reached three figures from 196 balls and with 18 fours for his third championship ton of the season following hundreds against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge (101*) and Hampshire at The Ageas Bowl (148), both in April .

It was the 38th hundred of Ballance’s first-class career and his fourth in consecutive Championship matches having finished last season’s campaign with a century against Worcestershire.

Ballance finally succumbed after playing back to a shooting off-cutter from Daniel Bell-Drummond that slid down the Canterbury slope to hit near the base of the sumps.

Despite taking the second new ball, Kent still struggled to roll over the Tykes tail and the majority made double-digit contributions.

After tea, Jon Tattersall sparred at a Matt Milnes leg-cutter to be caught behind, Tim Bresnan chopped on when attempting a back-foot force, and three balls later, Steven Patterson perished in near identical fashion.

Dom Bess miscued a short one from Podmore to mid-on and Ben Coad, after a career-best 35, skied to point to give Podmore a second wicket.

Claydon finished with three for 83 on a day Kent’s bowlers will care to forget.

Gary Ballance said: “I don’t know if I’m doing anything different but I’ve started the season as well as any I can remember. Getting a score in our first game and getting the confidence from playing on a nice pitch down in Hampshire was massive and I’ve managed to build on that.

“It’s always good to score runs, but to do it when it’s helping to put the team in a good position in matches is especially pleasing.

“We started the day well by winning the first hour, which we knew would be very important, and fortunately me and Jack [Leaning] put together a decent partnership after that. Jack really got stuck in and batted really well, it was an important knock for us.

“We knew we had to win that first session and that then put us into a really good position in the match. The heavy roller took the sting out of the pitch and helped us get through the first hour.

“I think we saw in the four overs Duanne bowled tonight that he’s a quality international bowler. He’s showed what he can do in this game and we’ll be leaning on him tomorrow and over the next few months for sure.

“He’s a really nice bloke, chilled and relaxed off the field, but once he’s out in the middle he surely means business. He likes to bowl quick and likes the odd bumper, as Kent have found out.”

Kent’s interim skipper Heino Kuhn said: “That heavy roller killed the pitch a bit, there wasn’t much pace or bounce in it today, added to which, we don’t have a bowler in our squad who sends it down at 140kmph like Olivier.

“I don’t think we put enough balls in the right areas for long enough. That was our plan, but you have to give Yorkshire a lot of credit, I thought they batted well with the big hundred from Ballance that helped to build a couple of big partnerships that have batted us out of the game.

“Losing three wickets late tonight hasn’t helped the mood either, but we’ll come back in the morning and try harder. Deep down, we still believe we have enough quality to bat through the day and we’re going to give it our best go.”