McGrath rebirth aids Yorkshire
Hampshire 427 and 21 for 1 lead Yorkshire 399 for 9 dec (McGrath 106*, Jaques 93) by 49 runs
Had circumstances been different at the start of this summer, Anthony McGrath may not have even featured in Yorkshire's Championship line-up, but he appears to have ensured his continued involvement after scoring a defiant century to bring his side back into their contest with Hampshire.
Now 36, McGrath's struggles for runs last season - when he scored only one century and one half-century in 23 Championship innings - put him under threat for his place at the start of this summer, particularly after Yorkshire strengthened their batting by recruiting Australian Phil Jaques during the winter.
Rather than shirk from the challenge, McGrath has demonstrated his versatility by claiming wickets and scoring 90 in Yorkshire's recent win against Leicestershire, and has now scored his first century since last August to prevent Hampshire establishing control of the match.
Without McGrath's controlled contribution, Yorkshire would have been facing a major first-innings deficit and the prospect of battling to save the game on the final day. Instead, he helped prise 162 priceless runs out of the final three wickets to enable a declaration 28 runs adrift on 399 for 9.
"Going into the season, we had plenty of batting options," he said. "It was always going to be tough on selection, so whoever played was always going to have to get some runs. I failed early on at No 3 and got pushed down to 6 or 7. I've felt really good all season, to be honest, but it's about getting runs on the board."
Yorkshire's first target, batting under cloudy conditions, was to save the follow on after resuming 178 runs away from making Hampshire bat again. Although they enjoyed their share of good fortune with both Gary Ballance and Jacques Rudolph edging through the slips during a 149-run stand, they appeared to have reached a position where they could take control of the game.
That position was undermined by the loss of four wickets either side of lunch that left Yorkshire in danger of following on with a major deficit. The experience of McGrath, playing 17 years to the day after making his Yorkshire debut against Glamorgan at Bradford, in batting with the lower order proved the key point of the day.
Teaming up with Ryan Sidebottom 191 runs adrift, McGrath carefully guided Yorkshire closer, firstly to the follow on target and then gave them the opportunity to declare with 10 overs remaining, only for bad light to halt proceedings with 2.4 overs unused. They enjoyed their luck, with Sidebottom being dropped on 20 by James Tomlinson in his delivery stride.
McGrath also received a reprieve, missed on 61 by Simon Katich at slip off Kabir Ali, but they added 84 for the eighth wicket before Sidebottom edged Kabir behind. McGrath continued aggressively and hit Liam Dawson's left-arm spin for four and a straight six off successive balls to take Yorkshire nearer saving the follow on.
Once Steve Patterson edged Dawson to slip, leaving McGrath 16 short of three figures as last man Iain Wardlaw arrived at the crease, he was forced to adopt a more tactical approach and for the first time in his four-hour innings he refused singles to keep the strike.
The landmark, which included 14 fours and a six, was reached with a two to cover off Dawson and marked with considerably less fuss than the England captain at Lord's - McGrath bent down, straightened his pads and took off his helmet, before politely acknowledging the crowd's applause.
"It's been tough for everyone around the country to get runs," McGrath said. "There are a few guys who have got 600 to 700 runs, but for everybody else it's been pretty sparse. You've got to fight it out and have a bit of luck, like I did today, but when you get in you've got to try and cash in.
"I just want to play in the first team so I'm happy to play in any position. It was a tough year last year as we all know, so I'm really enjoying it at the moment. It's a satisfaction to reach three figures with the troubles I had last year. I think the situation of the game took away my thoughts of reaching a hundred though."
Hoping to bowl 10 overs at Hampshire before the close, Yorkshire were only given 7.2 overs before bad light closed in, but enough time for Dawson to slap an Adil Rashid long hop straight to point to suggest there may be life in the game yet.