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Ballance makes Yorkshire history as Hampshire defied

Hampshire 455 (Vince 147, Berg 99*, Coad 4-71) drew with Yorkshire 231 (Ballance 108, Berg 4-62) and 399 for 6 dec (Ballance 203*, Lees 70)
Scorecard

A draw that felt like a victory. That's how Yorkshire ranked this encounter: scoreboard pressure from the off, England's Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow scoring 18 between them across both innings and Hampshire hellbent on knocking more county noses out of joint. Not only did Yorkshire leave with a share of the polls, but Gary Ballance's unbeaten 203 on the final day ensured he had a few things to celebrate.

With 108 in the first innings, Ballance became the first man to score twin hundreds in a match as captain of Yorkshire. A remarkable feat considering they have been led by a few who could hold a bat.

It was also the second time he has brought up centuries in both innings of a first class match - the first coming against Surrey in 2013. He is now the second Yorkshire batsman to score a century and double century in the same match after Younis Khan, who just yesterday brought up 10,000 Test runs for Pakistan, did so against Hampshire in 2007.

We're just into the last week of April and Ballance already has 508 Championship runs from five innings. If he continues on this path England selection, he says, will take care of itself. Andrew Gale, gestured to the Yorkshire dressing room where Root was readying himself for the long journey north and said: "There's a captain in there that rates him." Ballance knew one thing for sure: he was knackered. Understandably so.

The pillar of Ballance's hundreds - the second brought up today off 210 balls; the double off 384 - was stubbornness. Yorkshire were damned if they were going to lose two games to Hampshire in three weeks.

"We showed what Yorkshire cricket is about, if you can't win, don't get beat," said Gale and Ballance, leading with distinction, was a shining example of that. Across both innings, he batted for 12 hours and 52 minutes, facing 582 balls. Across four days of cricket, he was only off the field for 12.3 overs. So set was Ballance as he plotted Yorkshire's final escape route that, if anyone had removed him, they might have been made King of England.

For Hampshire, it is the second home game in succession that they have ended up with the rougher part of the draw. In the last fortnight, they have had Middlesex and Yorkshire, County Championship trophies from 2014, 2015 and 2016 between them, on their knees. Both were able to escape relatively unscathed.

Hampshire's recruitment over the winter has, objectively, been excellent. To be able to tie down a bowler of Kyle Abbott's quality, who toyed with Root and Bairstow throughout the match and removed them both in the follow-on innings, is a masterstroke. Their squad depth is impressive: soon, they will have to decide how to get Rilee Rossouw and George Bailey into their batting line-up. Reece Topley's return, despite not much reward with figures of two for 143, can be charted as a success given he bowled with good pace and has not lost his ability to move the ball both ways. Precocious leg spinner Mason Crane has yet to play a game. But ultimately, personnel may not prove a deciding factor on how this season goes, even if they do sit third.

Quite simply, they do not have the pitches to force results. Across the country, as teams convert draws to wins - and occasionally loses in pursuit of those wins - Hampshire are at risk of standing still. It feels counter-productive that, having been saved from relegation by the financial mismanagement of others and working hard to "future proof" their squad for the rigours of Division One, they may find themselves held back as individuals, as a team and as a county by docile, unresponsive wickets. Teams that do well in the Championship tend not to draw too many games.

With so much resting on the new ball, Abbott and Gareth Berg performed admirably. They decimated Yorkshire in the first innings by reducing them to 19 for four. In the follow-on, they had them 20 for two. Then, with the first delivery of the second new ball, Abbott drew Bairstow forward and, with the help of a fresh seam, moved the ball off the pitch and into the hands of James Vince at third slip. But, just as they found last week, when they reduced Middlesex for 44 for three in their follow-on innings, prising out the remaining wickets was an arduous task. Over the last two days of this match, only 10 Yorkshire wickets fell across both innings.

There were a couple of moments that might have Hampshire thinking: 'what if?' Peter Handscomb, who shared a stand of 88 with Ballance that took Yorkshire into the lead for the first time in the match, was dropped on 33 by Jimmy Adams at point, which would have made it 236 for 4 - a lead of just 12.

Then, in the 91st over, when Bresnan was 10 off 29, Vince dropped a chance in the cordon off Abbott, which would have meant a lead of 58 with four more wickets to get. The hosts also had to make do without the zippy Brad Wheal, unable to bowl after injuring his side on day three, the seriousness of that not yet known.

"It was a frustrating day," said Hampshire director of cricket Giles White. "You turn up and hope things go your way and you get a win but it didn't go our way. We knew it would be hard work, it was a good wicket and remained a good wicket all the way through."

White is almost certainly the one who could ask the groundstaff for more to work with. His players are certainly doing their bit.

Yorkshire 3rd innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st11A LythAZ Lees
2nd9JE RootAZ Lees
3rd150GS BallanceAZ Lees
4th88GS BallancePSP Handscomb
5th4GS BallanceJM Bairstow
6th94TT BresnanGS Ballance
7th43GS BallanceAU Rashid