Gary Ballance launched a pulverising assault on Middlesex’s bowlers as Yorkshire set the home side a distinctly improbable 472 to win in their LV= Division One match at Lord’s.
The dismissal of both Liam Plunkett and Ryan Sidebottom for single-figure scores had left Joe Root’s men on 350-9 seven overs into the afternoon session, representing a lead of 405.
That was formidable enough but it was clearly not quite up to Ballance’s requirements, so the 24-year-old decided to take matters into his own hands by thrashing another 56 runs off 21 balls in a last-wicket stand of 66 with Jack Brooks.
That took just 5.4 overs and Ballance whacked five sixes and four boundaries in a murderous, morale-destroying onslaught on Chris Rogers’ attack. Yorkshire were eventually bowled out for 416.
By the time he was caught at third man attempting to guide Murtagh for yet another four, Ballance had made 130 off 143 balls, hitting 15 fours and five sixes – 96 of his runs, in other words – in the process.
He may also have cemented his place in the England line-up for the forthcoming one-day internationals and Test matches.
However, the Middlesex openers were undeterred by the huge task they faced. Both Sam Robson and Chris Rogers were 39 not out as the home side made brisk progress to 78-0 off 19 overs at the break.