Yorkshire take firm grip in hunt for victory

India Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara hooks a ball to the boundary on his way to an unbeaten 133 for Yorkshire in their County Championship match with Hampshire (Picture: Dave Williams).
India Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara hooks a ball to the boundary on his way to an unbeaten 133 for Yorkshire in their County Championship match with Hampshire (Picture: Dave Williams).
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IF Jason Gillespie’s reign at the helm of Yorkshire is to end in the near future, he will undoubtedly leave with the blessed thanks of a grateful county.

The Australian, in conjunction with director of cricket Martyn Moxon and captain Andrew Gale, has transformed what was a withered-looking White Rose when he took the job in late 2011 to one that is now in full bloom.

A quick glance at the County Championship trophy currently residing at Headingley is ample proof of that, as is a record that by close of play today seems certain to feature just three defeats in 52 four-day matches under Gillespie.

No wonder, therefore, that England are set to come calling in the next few days with a view to offering the opportunity to succeed Peter Moores ahead of this summer’s Ashes.

There can be no more suitable candidate than Gillespie, who has built a team within the Broad Acres in his own mould.

This much was again apparent yesterday as Yorkshire displayed the type of ruthless streak that helped make the Australia side featuring Gillespie the best in the world.

Detecting an opportunity to put Hampshire to the sword, the reigning champions did just that by, first, building an unassailable lead and then taking late wickets to leave surely only the weather as a possible barrier to a second victory of the season.

That would not be enough to take Yorkshire top, not after both Durham and Middlesex won yesterday inside three days. Instead, capping a fine team display with a deserved win would leave them third at the quarter point of the season.

But, considering Andrew Gale’s men were nine points off the pace in fourth at the same stage a year ago and the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid are back in situ following their Caribbean sojourn, the future – with or without the hugely popular Gillespie at the helm – looks bright.

On a day’s play that began and ended amid sunshine, but with Headingley’s new floodlights having put in a near three-hour shift under heavy clouds in between, Yorkshire set the tone early by taking just seven minutes and 15 deliveries to wrap up Hampshire’s first innings.

Adil Rashid and Jack Brooks did the damage with a wicket apiece to earn Yorkshire a sizeable advantage of 143 runs that, come 5pm, had been turned into a victory target of 449 for Hampshire.

A maiden century for the county from Cheteshwar Pujara in what is likely to be his final Championship appearance gave the home side a vice-like grip on proceedings.

The Indian Test batsman, who is likely to be replaced by Glenn Maxwell when Yorkshire head to Somerset later this month, plundered 17 boundaries and one six off Fidel Edwards en route to an unbeaten 133.

Pujara brought up his century in the third over after tea, a delicate flick off his pads to fine leg from Liam Dawson acquiring the necessary two runs.

By then, Bairstow had departed but there was no doubt the vital support role he had played during a rapid knock of 59.

The England international perished trying to repeat a pull behind square leg from Dawson that just two deliveries earlier had seen the ball race towards the boundary, a looped catch to Sean Irvine at slip being the unfortunate result on the second occasion.

Bairstow was the fourth and final Yorkshire wicket to fall in the afternoon.

Adam Lyth had been the first to go after flashing at a loose delivery from Edwards on 23 and finding the gloves of Lewis McManus.

Alex Lees followed his partner back to the pavilion 25 minutes before lunch, the left hander deceived sufficiently by Gareth Berg to see his off stump hit.

Gale then went soon after lunch, his attempted hook 
arrowing straight into the hands of James Tomlinson on the boundary rope.

At that stage, Yorkshire were 80-3 and Hampshire were sensing a possible route back into the contest.

Pujara and Bairstow, however, extinguished those hopes with their 130-run stand in a little under 30 overs proving decisive in paving the way for a post-tea onslaught by the hosts.

Ninety five runs were plundered in just 12 overs as Pujara and Jack Leaning cut loose in devastating fashion to afford Gale the opportunity to call a halt and declare with 21 overs of the day remaining.

Hampshire, set an unlikely 449 to win, suffered a nightmare start as Sean Terry and Michael Carberry were dismissed in successive deliveries during Brooks’s first over, Tim Bresnan at slip and Bairstow taking the catches respectively.

Brooks then found the edge of James Vince’s bat and Lyth did the rest low to his left at second slip before a fine final session for Yorkshire ended with Dawson trapped in front of his stumps by Rashid, leaving the visitors 411 runs adrift with just six wickets remaining.