Yorkshire v Warwickshire: Yorkshire pegged back but Ballance impresses again
In 10 first-class matches this season, the Yorkshire batsman has only once failed to pass fifty.
The sole blemish on his record came when he suffered the ignominy of a pair against Lancashire at Headingley Carnegie last month. Otherwise, Ballance has been consistency personified as he continues to impress in his first full season.
Ballance’s latest half-century – an innings of 57 against Warwickshire – was the top score on a mixed opening day for the home side. After winning the toss, Yorkshire were bowled out for 297 on the stroke of stumps, an apparently unremarkable effort on a decent pitch.
Most batsmen got in only to promptly get out before they had built on a promising platform.
Ballance, well though he played, was among them as the wait continues for his first Championship century.
Without the 21-year-old’s contribution, however, Yorkshire’s score would have been clearly below-par against a severely depleted Warwickshire attack.
The absence of Chris Woakes, Boyd Rankin and Rikki Clarke – the first two on international duty, the latter unavailable with a back injury – had deprived the visitors of three men with 133 first-class wickets between them this summer.
That is more than the rest of the Warwickshire squad put together and left the visitors inconvenienced at a time when they are attempting to reignite their title challenge following last Saturday’s defeat to bottom club Hampshire.
But a patched-up arsenal that included one debutant in Chris Wright, one rookie spinner in Chris Metters and one man coming back from a broken finger in Darren Maddy prevented Yorkshire getting away.
Keith Barker led the charge with 4-73 from 23 overs, a Championship best by a man who used to ply his trade as a striker for Rochdale Football Club.
Metters chipped in with 3-31 from 10.2 overs, including the wicket of Ballance, caught at short-leg by Ian Westwood during the final session.
There was also an encouraging first day at the office for Chris Wright, a 26-year-old seam bowler recruited on loan from Essex, who returned 2-65 from 21 overs.
Neil Carter and Maddy played their part, and Warwickshire could be well pleased with a disciplined effort.
Anyone who had consulted the weather forecasts ahead of day one could have been forgiven for thinking there was no point turning up.
Heavy rain was predicted throughout the day in Yorkshire and for much of northern England and the Midlands.
Weather forecasters, however, are most definitely not as reliable as Swiss timepieces.
Improbably, preposterously even, a modest crowd were treated to a full day’s play beneath skies that alternated between variable cloud and watery sunshine.
Following their narrow failure to beat Sussex in the Championship at Scarborough on Saturday, when they fell just short of a victory target of 344, Yorkshire were naturally keen to get on the park to build on that display.
Their team showed two changes to that which achieved a draw at North Marine Road. Gerard Brophy replaced Jonny Bairstow, who hopes to make his full England debut against Ireland in Dublin tomorrow, and left-arm spinner David Wainwright came in for pace bowler Moin Ashraf.
The first session was attritional as Yorkshire sought to construct a solid platform.
Jacques Rudolph and Joe Sayers displayed good technique against the new ball but found runs hard to come by as Warwickshire stuck to their task.
Rudolph gradually showed signs of the form that brought him back-to-back hundreds at Scarborough, twice caressing Wright to the cover boundary in front of the East Stand.
But just when another big score looked in the offing, the South African was dispatched by Barker lbw for 24 to leave Yorkshire 40-1 in the 15th over.
Sayers – gritty, determined and more vigilant than a fastidious Neighbourhood Watch representative – eked out eight runs during the opening hour before striking his first boundary, sending a ball from Carter fizzing to the point boundary.
The left-hander followed up with a classy off-driven four off Maddy and a pulled four off Barker, reaching lunch on 31 out of a total of 95-1 from 33 overs.
But the afternoon belonged firmly to Warwickshire, who took three wickets in six overs as Yorkshire slid from 120-1 to 134-4.
Joe Root was lbw to Wright, Sayers bowled by Barker three short of fifty and McGrath caught at first slip off Wright.
Ballance and Brophy added 57 in 13 overs before Brophy was held at second slip off Metters, who probed away from the Kirkstall Lane end.
Metters had Adil Rashid caught at point before removing Ballance, Yorkshire slipping to 260-8 when Rich Pyrah was cleaned up by a good one from Barker.
Carter had Ryan Sidebottom caught behind before Metters wrapped up the innings by pinning Wainwright lbw.