Yorkshire v Hampshire (day one): Gary Ballance quickly shows he is happy leading from the front
CAPTAINCY brings out the best in Gary Ballance.
The statistics prove it.
In 11 first-class games in charge (seven for the Zimbabwe team MidWest Rhinos, and four for Yorkshire), Ballance has scored 1,278 runs at an average of 79.87, with eight hundreds and four fifties.
He seems to thrive on the extra responsibility.
After scoring 72 against Leeds-Bradford last week (his first match as official Yorkshire captain after his previous times in charge were as a stand-in), Ballance made 120 on the opening day of the Championship season.
It was his 30th first-class hundred and his 16th for the club.
More importantly, it helped rescue his side after they slipped from 110-2 to 152-7 in the first hour after lunch, when the visitors appeared to be in command of the game.
Ballance shared in an eighth-wicket stand of 106 with Steve Patterson, who hit the second-highest score of 37 not out as Yorkshire rallied to reach 273 before a 2,000 crowd.
Hampshire advanced to 58-5 in the 17 overs before stumps, pace bowler Ben Coad taking all the wickets in a magnificent spell from the Rugby Stand end.
Coad’s efforts ensured that the honours belonged to the home side and left Ballance delighted at close of play.
“It turned out to be a very good day for us,” he said.
“We were in a bit of trouble in that middle session, but we fought back well and ended up with a decent score on the board.
“Coady bowled outstandingly well; he’s improved massively during the winter, and getting a five-wicket haul will give him loads of confidence.
“He’s put on a bit of pace, which helps in Division One, and he just hits the deck hard and bowls really good areas.
“On a personal level, I felt really good at the crease, and it was brilliant for the confidence to kick on and get a hundred.”
After Hampshire took up the right of the visiting team to bowl first, perhaps encouraged by the heavy cloud cover, Yorkshire began positively.
Adam Lyth and Alex Lees played some handsome strokes in a positive opening stand of 41, ended when Lees aimed an expansive drive at Fidel Edwards and was clean bowled, much to the batsman’s palpable annoyance.
Peter Handscomb, the Australian batsman making his Yorkshire debut, began with suitable care and attention, defending resolutely and waiting patiently for any bad ball.
At the other end, Lyth produced arguably the shot of the morning when he pulled Edwards for an effortless six into the East Stand, only to fall soon after when he was caught behind trying to leave a delivery from Gareth Berg.
Yorkshire had the better of the first session, which they ended on 96-2, but Hampshire hit back strongly after lunch.
From 110-2, the hosts collapsed to 152-7, as a combination of good bowling and indifferent strokes proved their undoing.
Handscomb was bowled by Edwards after battling hard for 104 minutes.
Then, Jack Leaning went lbw to Berg before Tim Bresnan was yorked by Edwards for a fifth-ball duck.
Andrew Hodd was caught at second slip off Kyle Abbott for a second-ball duck before the same bowler bowled Azeem Rafiq.
But Ballance found a stubborn ally in Patterson, who showed once again that he is more than capable with bat in hand when required.
Edwards whipped up plenty of pace from the Kirkstall Lane end and hit Ballance on the helmet with a vicious bouncer that flew to the boundary.
It barely unnerved the captain, however, who casually inspected said helmet before carrying on without a care in the world.
Ballance’s game, in fact, was calmness exemplified – full of crisp drives, neat pulls and decisive nudges.
He reached his century just before tea from 163 balls with 14 fours, punching the air to reveal what it meant to him.
It needed a ball from Liam Dawson that slipped through the gate to send him on his way, the spinner then winning an lbw decision against Josh Shaw.
The innings ended when Coad was brilliantly caught by a diving Vince at third slip off Brad Wheal, flying to his right.
Coad, 23, is making only his second Championship appearance as Yorkshire are presently without five leading bowlers.
On this evidence, he will not be surrendering his place any time soon, and he immediately looked the part, reducing Hampshire to 18-2 inside his first two overs.
Jimmy Adams was lbw and Vince caught at mid-wicket as Coad caused problems with his accuracy and aggression.
A third wicket followed when he had Michael Carberry caught at third slip by Leaning, a fourth when Sean Ervine popped the ball up to Ballance at mid-off, and a fifth when Riley Rossouw shouldered arms and was lbw.
Former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Richard Hutton was confirmed as the club’s new president at an extraordinary general meeting before play.