Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2016

Ballance century ahead of judgment day

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Nottinghamshire 94 and 61 for 3 need 391 runs to beat Yorkshire282 and 263 for 4 (Ballance 101*)


Gary Ballance is finding late-season form © Getty Images

“Does tha’ think Ballance should have done it?”
“Batted again?”

Thus the opening exchanges of a conversation between two strangers in a Scarborough convenience store very early on the third day of this game. The decision by Gary Ballance not to enforce the follow-on was still creating interest. Scarborough is cricket town.

And it is cricket town even when the sea swaps Wednesday’s blue ruffle for this morning’s turbid grey and the clifftop castle is cloaked in gothic mist. Even as the drizzle stopped in North Queen Street, the chat over kippers and coffee concerned follow-ons and refreshed bowlers, the substance of the discussion quite as informed as might be found in a members’ enclosure or press box. Maybe more so.

And it is cricket town when folk are found queueing at nine o’clock on a clammy morning with little chance of a prompt start. It seems almost an article of faith in Scarborough that you turn up for the cricket even when there is limited chance of any taking place. After all, you can always talk about the game even if you can’t watch any.

Perhaps faith is always repaid in this place. The 2,634 souls who arrived at North Marine Road eventually saw 35.2 overs of play and most of it will have pleased most of them. Yorkshire got things under way, albeit 40 minutes late, by scoring 63 runs off 12.2 overs. Some 35 of those runs were whacked by Tim Bresnan, whose batting style conjures images of an all-you-can-eat carvery with plates the size of centre circles.

The Yorkshire all-rounder’s six over long-on off Samit Patel was probably the shot of the morning and Chris Read’s bowlers would have been content to see the home side bat for longer since such indulgence would have delayed their own innings. But Ballance eventually declared soon after he had reached his second century in successive matches at Scarborough, leaving Nottinghamshire with five overs to bat before lunch.

The visitors’ notional target was 452, a score Sir Donald Bradman once managed by himself; their real aim is to leave North Marine Road with five points for a draw, a task that has been made easier, first by Yorkshire opting to bat again and then by the home side extending their lead beyond the outer limits of sense.

“Were you surprised by Yorkshire’s tactics today” Mick Newell was asked, soon after play had been abandoned in mid-afternoon. “We were quite surprised they didn’t enforce the follow-on,” replied Newell, a man who rarely ties fancy bows on his words, “so anything that happened this morning wasn’t particularly surprising for us.”

Perhaps Newell’s words were truer than he might acknowledge. Given Nottinghamshire’s batting frailties at the moment and the skill of Yorkshire’s seamers on this North Marine Road pitch, he was maybe not too shocked to see Steven Mullaney edge the ninth ball of the innings to third slip where Jack Leaning took a comfortable catch and joined the bowler, Jack Brooks, in restrained celebrations.

But there was some satisfaction for Newell to take from the afternoon session and it came from the confident batting of Tom Moores, who was 41 not out when serious rain forced the players from the field. Lancashire and Durham supporters who watched the 19-year-old Moores bat and keep wicket when on loan at Southport last month knows that the lad has something more about him than mere talent. He is comfortable playing county cricket; it is a natural environment for him.

Now the Yorkshire bowlers know it, too, and they will be after him on the final morning. Patterson discovered it when Moores drilled an off-drive past him and Tim Bresnan was made aware of it when the son of Nottinghamshire’s coaching consultant played his trademark cover drive.

In other respects, the afternoon was miserable for Notts and more cheerful for Bresnan, who took two wickets in his first over. Jake Libby was the first of these when he edged a catch to Jake Lehmann at fourth slip and Michael Lumb collected what may have been an unfortunate pair when he was adjudged by Neil Mallender to have nicked his fifth ball to Hodd.

All of this will have comforted Ballance, whose decision to bat again was backed by the Yorkshire dressing room. Nevertheless, as rain sliced 56 overs off Nottinghamshire’s second innings, an anxious White Rose squad may be hoping that what some see as an error will be justified by Friday’s cricket. “Our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not,” says the First French Lord in Act IV Scene iii of All’s Well That Ends Well, and that title, too, may be quoted by Messrs Moxon and Gillespie if their side wins. .

And there was at least a lighter aftermath to Yorkshire’s decision not to enforce the follow-on when an angry home supporter decided to make his opposition to the tactic known to the players. Sadly our outraged complainant’s sense of injustice was keener than his sense of direction. He stuck his head through the wrong dressing-room window and Nottinghamshire’s Mick Newell said he could not help him. Not even in cricket town.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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