Gary Ballance's run-scoring feats appreciated in Yorkshire, if not England

Gary Ballance latches on to a pull Getty Images

Yorkshire 181 and 207 for 3 (Ballance 83*, Kohler-Cadmore 69) lead Hampshire 235 by 153 runs

Should you be curious as to what cricket means to people in Yorkshire you might visit Headingley's Long Room half an hour before a day's play in a Championship match. The place was crowded this third morning of the Hampshire match and bubbling with debates: Where would we be without Ballance? Will Brook kick on? When will Bresnan be back? Very few people were hypnotised by their mobiles but many were reading the Yorkshire Post or books. One fellow had his head in Michael Glover's Wellington's Peninsular Victories; another in August Kleinzhaler's book of San Francisco poems, Hollyhocks in the Snow. They are an eclectic bunch but they are bound by a common cause, one of the most honourable in English cricket.

So there is no need to imagine the disappointment of such supporters when Keith Barker had both openers caught by Joe Weatherley at second slip inside the first half of play and before Yorkshire's 54-run deficit had been cleared. Adam Lyth, having injured his hamstring when celebrating his wonderful slip catch on the second day, was probably limited in his movements and could not get fully forward. Harry Brook, on the other hand, played a dreadful shot, hanging his bat out for the edge in the manner of a schoolboy offering his hand for smacking. There was much head shaking at the Kirkstall Lane End at that excuse for a shot.

And likewise much joy when Gary Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore repaired the damage with a stand of 141 in 45 overs. Kohler-Cadmore eventually departed for 69 when playing across a ball slanted into him by Ian Holland but when rain arrived at 3.45pm, Ballance was only 17 runs short of his fourth century of the season. That would be his fifth in consecutive Championship matches and, rather astonishingly, his sixth against Hampshire. Where, indeed, would Yorkshire be without Ballance?

There was joy at the style as well as the substance, you understand. Kohler-Cadmore announced himself with three boundaries, two of them straight-driven, off the Hampshire seamers. His timing came as standard. Ballance took his cue from his younger colleague, first by driving James Fuller and then by executing a classical sweep off Mason Crane immediately the legspinner was introduced. By the time the partnership had moved into third gear early brightness had given way to grey cloud but the warmth from the spectators was genuine. No one heard the weather forecast and drifted home.

Yet apparently it is still easy for a few people to unplug their brains and settle for stereotype. The Yorkshireman's reputation for being tight with cash and the title of the late Don Mosey's book We Don't Play It For Fun still govern perceptions of the county in general and its cricket in particular. Pleasingly, such insularity and a corresponding suspicion of Yorkshire have attracted the satirists. One t-shirt features a father holding his young son in his arms. They are both looking towards a black-shadowed land in the distance. "Dad, what's that dark place over there?" asks the lad. "That's Yorkshire, son," comes the answer. "You must never go there."

In fact cricket lovers taking precisely the opposite course of action on Wednesday would have seen Kohler-Cadmore mark the start of the afternoon session with the stroke of the day: a back-foot force through the covers off Fuller. They would also have seen Ballance cover drive Barker and then clip Holland though midwicket to pass 500 runs in the Championship this season. Technical weaknesses may still be cited as a reason not to select Ballance for this summer's Ashes series but his footwork and composure here made such objections appear insufficient. He is moving well at the crease; the England selectors should at least give him another look.

One person who has certainly been considering Ballance's recent performances is Yorkshire's analyst, Bertie Kennedy. His findings, which are correct up to last week, are rather startling. For example since the start of the 2017 season Ballance has fifty in 17 (36.9%) of his 46 innings. No one else in the County Championship can match those figures. Ballance had also reached a hundred more frequently (19.5%) over the same period than any of his contemporaries.

But here's the thing: over his whole career Ballance had reached a half-century 86 times in 244 innings, a rate only bettered by Hashim Amla, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith in the modern era. It is extraordinary company for a player who cannot get near his country's Test match side.

Ballance ended this third day with his Championship average for the season on 104.2. That's been dragged down from 106.5 at the start of this match because of his dismissal for 12 in the first innings. The game itself is likely to end in a draw; we have lost over 100 overs to the weather. But whatever the conditions in the morning, the Long Room will be thronged. It takes more than the World Cup to keep Yorkshire supporters away from a Yorkshire game. This is a county which boasts at least seven cricket societies; it is one in which the former players' association will be paying for non-contracted academy players to go abroad in the winter to continue their education; it is one which will be hosting a match at York next month, when an attendance of around 4000 is expected on the first two days. Nowhere in England is cricket taken more seriously and nowhere do people find deeper enjoyment in the game.

Hampshire 4th innings Partnerships

1st4JJ WeatherleyOC Soames
2nd3AM RahaneJJ Weatherley
3rd28SA NortheastJJ Weatherley
4th102RR RossouwJJ Weatherley
5th16RR RossouwIG Holland
6th5RR RossouwTP Alsop