Gary Ballance joins Len Hutton in record books for Yorkshire

IF ANY other English batsman had scored five hundreds in successive County Championship games – Joe Denly, for example – the critics would be purring and calling for him to be picked for the Ashes.

Yorkshire's Gary Ballance celebrates his century against Hampshire (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com).

As it is Gary Ballance who has done this, however, a man who has been perceived to have had his chances at international level, one senses that his stunning form might be more of an inconvenience to England than a welcome development.

There is still much Championship cricket to be played before the first Test against Australia on August 1 (Yorkshire have six matches during that time), room enough for Ballance to lose form and for other players to find it in the shires.

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But if he carries on like this, no one – not even those who have written him off so often that they have run out of paper and pencils – will be able to stop the “Ballance for England” bandwagon gaining momentum.

As Yorkshire’s rain-affected match against Hampshire ended with the visitors closing on 158-5, having been set 279 in 48 overs, Ballance scored 100 exactly to provide only the third instance of a Yorkshire batsman scoring a hundred in five successive Championship games.

Len Hutton did it in 1952 and also holds the outright record for Yorkshire with seven, spread across the 1947-48 seasons. The overall Championship record for hundreds in successive fixtures is eight by Denis Compton in his annus mirabilis in 1947, with those statistics kindly supplied to this newspaper by Andrew Samson, the Test Match Special statistician.

Ballance’s sequence began with an innings of 194 at Worcestershire in the final match of last summer and continued this year with 101 not out at Nottinghamshire, 148 at Hampshire and 159 away to Kent.

The 29-year-old played the last of his 23 Tests against South Africa at Trent Bridge in 2017, and although his international career experienced a dip after a dazzling start, he has a respectable average of 37.4.

Not that the man himself is getting carried away with his century blitz, which gave Yorkshire an outside chance of victory in a game in which more than 100 overs were lost to the weather.

“England don’t have a Test for a few months, and I don’t know if me scoring runs here will count to that but we’ll just see what happens,” said Ballance, who has hit 538 Championship runs in seven innings this summer at 89.6.

“I’m just enjoying playing cricket, enjoying being around the lads and contributing, and I just want to keep doing that.

“I don’t look too much into records and things like that, it’s just nice to be consistent – that’s what I take out of it really.

“I’ll just try and make it last as long as possible because I know that there’s low scores just around the corner.”

Ballance had 83 to his name when Yorkshire began day four on 207-3 in their second innings, a lead of 153.

The start was delayed by 45 minutes after which only 25 minutes’ play was possible before further rain brought an early lunch.

That was time enough, however, for Ballance to accrue the 17 he needed for his 39th hundred on his 150th first-class appearance.

After whipping the leg-spin of Mason Crane to the mid-wicket boundary with striking wrist-power, and then easing Ian Holland to the leg-side rope, he made comfortable progress to a milestone reached from 164 balls with 15 fours.

When the action resumed at 1.25pm, Crane dismissed him with a well-flighted ball that trapped him in front.

Perhaps the break had disturbed Ballance’s concentration; there was warm applause for him as he left the field.

A sparse crowd would love to have seen a big score from Jack Leaning too, but, having played well for 41, he was bowled by a good one from Keith Barker that squeezed through the gate with the second new ball.

Yorkshire then stepped on the gas with a declaration in mind, Jonny Tattersall playing some high-class leg-side shots on his way to 50 from 52 balls and David Willey contributing 26 from 28 in an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 64 from 61 deliveries.

Hampshire’s run-chase, such as it was, effectively ended after 15 balls of their reply, by which time Oliver Soames and Ajinkya Rahane were back in the hutch.

Soames top-edged an attempted pull back to Duanne Olivier, the bowler, and Ben Coad uprooted Rahane’s middle stump in spectacular style as the India Test vice-captain fell for a fifth-ball duck while shaping to drive.

When Sam Northeast turned Coad to Willey at mid-wicket on the stroke of tea, Hampshire were 35-3, but Joe Weatherley and Rilee Rossouw added 102 in 23.1 overs to all but make the match safe. Weatherley chipped Dom Bess to mid-wicket after scoring 66 from 108, and the off-spinner also bowled Holland, but Rossouw struck an unbeaten 54 from 88 as Hampshire went top of Division One, 21 points above third-placed Yorkshire having played a game more.