Yorkshire v Surrey, Headingley, 1st day June 21, 2013

Gale ton steals the show

Jon Culley at Headingley

Yorkshire 292 for 5 (Gale 114*, Ballance 90) v Surrey

Anyone who came to Headingley hoping to see Kevin Pietersen bat had to accept that such a pleasure would not be forthcoming after Surrey put Yorkshire in and failed to take a wicket in the first hour and a half. From England's perspective, a day in the field as one of the key components of their plan to win the Ashes is nursed back to fitness was probably what they had hoped for.

In any event, this was a Yorkshire crowd and another century from Andrew Gale gave the day a much more satisfactory feel than anything Pietersen might have achieved. The Yorkshire captain, whose early season form had appeared to be a scratchy continuation of a lean couple of years, suddenly seems unable to do anything but accumulate runs: 272 at Scarborough, 103 at Lord's and now this; three hundreds in as many Championship games.

"I changed a few things technically," he said, after leaving the field on 114 not out. "I felt my balance was a little bit off early season. It's just been about being ruthless. It probably is my best form. Three hundreds in a row speaks for itself.

"Now that I'm in form, I just want to make sure I stay in form. I've been telling myself to be really greedy and don't take it for granted. I'm taking each ball as it comes and pretending I'm nought not out."

Perversely, Gale will begin the second day under a little pressure. He shared a magnificent partnership of 204 with Gary Ballance that seemed to have guaranteed it would be Yorkshire's day, but then Ballance - who will leave this match on Saturday evening to join England's Twenty20 squad - was leg-before to Jon Lewis 10 runs short of his hundred and Adil Rashid, himself enjoying a golden run of form, edged the same bowler to second slip, where Vikram Solanki took a fine catch. It gives Surrey an opportunity to limit the damage still further if Gale can be prised out early on day two.

If he is, it will not be through his own indiscretion. Only once did he lose his discipline and he was visibly cross with himself. It came when he had reached 95 and, by his own admission, he started to replay the six he had hit to complete his century against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough. He went after Gary Keedy but the timing was wrong and for a moment it looked as if he might be caught - by Pietersen, of all people - but the ball had just enough legs to evade his outstretched fingers as he ran back from mid-off.

"It was a poor shot," Gale said. "I was reminiscing the Scarborough moment. I should have just kept knocking it around."

Gale and Ballance could take credit for steering Yorkshire through a potentially decisive phase as Surrey's bowlers, who had been ineffective with the new ball, slipped into a better groove all round after lunch. Chris Tremlett, still bowling primarily in short, sharp spells, made one climb on Adam Lyth that the opener had to play and which edged to second slip, then Zander de Bruyn found some inswing to trap Alex Lees in front. Joe Sayers, out of form but in the side because Phil Jaques is injured, scratched around before an indecisive prod had him caught at first slip, at which point Yorkshire were 77 for 3.

Pietersen had a gentle few overs himself just before tea, to supplement his work in the field. Alec Stewart, in charge for the moment after the sacking of Chris Adams, spoke on Pietersen's behalf, in effect, with the England player keeping his thoughts to himself.

"With Kevin, it was never about coming here and getting runs, it was about doing the hard yards," Stewart said. "You do all your rehab, your gym work, your shuttles and everything but standing in the field for six and a half hours is part of cricket.

"He is in an ice bath now. He will be sore but on the first day of your season if you are 100 percent fit, you are still sore. The good thing is that he has got six hours in his legs and that can only hold him in good stead for the second innings and when the Ashes start."

Yet how Surrey would welcome some runs from Pietersen, not least because having lost one overseas player with the promise of big scores when Graeme Smith's ankle gave out, they have now lost Ricky Ponting with a hand injury sustained in fielding practice on Wednesday, although the hope is that it is a less serious blow.

"He has had scans and it does not look like there is anything seriously wrong," Stewart said. "But when he woke this morning his hand was just locked up. We are hoping he will be fit for our Twenty20 match on Wednesday but we are in the hands of the medical people."