Gale century insures against defeat
Yorkshire 253 and 400 for 5 (Gale 126*, Leaning 76) lead Middlesex 232 by 421 runs
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire captain, helped his side insure themselves against defeat with his second century of the season but now needs to keep his fingers crossed that he has left enough time in the match for his bowlers to make it a match-winning innings as he seeks to regain the lead in the Championship race.
Yorkshire take a lead of 421 into the final day, having resisted any temptation to expose Middlesex to a few overs of hostile attack before the close. Only four wickets fell on day three compared with 21 over the opening two days, but Gale thinks there is enough life left in the pitch for Ryan Sidebottom and company to take 10 more.
Middlesex scored 472 in the fourth innings to beat Yorkshire at Lord's in April - when they were captained by Joe Root, incidentally, Gale having left himself out through lack of form - but it was not so much caution as the timing of the new ball that put him off going for an earlier declaration.
"The new ball was due three overs after tea and if we had gone too hard against that new ball, trying to accelerate, we could have easily lost three wickets in 10 overs, say, and then you can't accelerate," he explained. "So the key was for me and Jack Leaning to build a good partnership after tea and then push on and the way we accelerated at the end has set the game up nicely.
"I still think there is enough left in the pitch for us to get 10 wickets. The ball is still beating the bat, there is good carry and their lads are a lot more tired than ours, having spent more time in the field. If we can take wickets with the new ball, and get rid of Chris Rogers early on, we'll have a good chance."
Gale finished 126 not out. He has had an inconsistent season, two or three decent scores sitting among clusters of small ones, but he enjoys the pace in the pitch here and even a couple of blows inflicted by Steven Finn, one on the left thumb and another on the left elbow, the second at a critical moment after he made moved to 97, did not diminish the pleasure he drew from it, which he signalled by raising his bat to all corners of the ground after driving the ball through the offside for four off Finn to reach three figures.
He now has four hundreds on this ground, including his career-best 272 against Nottinghamshire last season. This one has lasted more than four hours and included 13 fours. Apart from the painful moments, he was also dropped on 40, when Rogers put down a difficult chance at point.
Yorkshire had started the day well, adding 117 runs at not far short of four an over in the morning session with no wickets lost. Kane Williamson, himself hit on the helmet by Finn, and Alex Lees both completed half-centuries in a partnership that put on 132.
They were each out in turn early in the afternoon session as Yorkshire were obliged to regroup for the first time. Tim Murtagh dismissed both in the space of 14 deliveries as Williamson, shaping to cut, top-edged a ball that bounced more than he anticipated, Ollie Rayner using his height to pluck it out of the air above his head, one-handed, at first slip. Then Lees, pushing forward, edged low to second slip, where Dawid Malan claimed the catch, Lees waiting for confirmation it had carried before walking off.
Jonny Bairstow was the only subsequent casualty before Jack Leaning joined Gale, top edging a pull off a short ball from Toby Roland-Jones to be caught at long leg.
The support Gale received from 20-year-old Leaning was impressive, providing more evidence that this is a young man who bats with composure beyond his years. They added 182 runs in 44.2 overs, Leaning letting loose with some powerful blows towards the close when he hit three sixes in the space of four balls faced, against Finn, Rayner and Malan.
He was stumped looking for another against Malan for 76, having helped swell Yorkshire's total by 75 in the last 10 overs of the day. A win will take Yorkshire back to the top of the Division One table. Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen.