Gale hits ton as Tykes batsmen take charge

Kane Williamson hits out for Yorkshire against Middlesex on day three of their game at North Marine Road
Kane Williamson hits out for Yorkshire against Middlesex on day three of their game at North Marine Road

Skipper Andrew Gale scored a season’s best 126 not out as Yorkshire batted all day to set up a commanding lead over Middlesex in the LV=County Championship match at North Marine Road today.

They closed the third day on 400 for five with an overall lead of 421 and if they go on to bowl out their opponents they will return to the top of the First Division table.

Cloudless skies were in place for the start of the third day and with Yorkshire resuming on 29 for one they made rapid progress through Kane Williamson and Alex Lees who batted throughout the morning session while adding 117 in 31 overs.

Steven Finn twice struck Williamson around the body with sharply rising deliveries early on but Lees was in prime form from the word go and, after driving Finn sweetly through the covers for four, he whipped him to the square leg boundary later in the over.

The elegant opener drove off-spinner, Ollie Rayner, over long-on for six and took a single off the next ball to take the stand into three figures. His half-century arrived off 111 balls with seven fours and a six and Williamson got there in the next over from Tom Helm from 83 deliveries with eight boundaries.

Lees was 66 and Williamson 62 when lunch arrived at 146 for one but both fell quickly in the afternoon, Williamson cutting the second ball from Tim Murtagh to be well held one handed above his head by Rayner in the slips. Murtagh also had Lees (67) caught in the cordon, this time low down by Dawid Malan.

Suddenly, Yorkshire had slipped to 155 for three with an overall lead of 176 and some of the early momentum was lost as Gale and Jonny Bairstow tried to settle in.

But at 201, Bairstow (32) hooked Toby Roland Jones and the ball sailed into the hands of Helm in front of the pavilion enclosure at long leg.

A solid partnership then developed between Gale and Jack Leaning but it was not entirely without blemish and Gale had an escape on 40 when he cut at Finn and Chris Rogers dropped a one-handed chance to his left at point.

Yorkshire were 247 for four at tea and Middlesex opted for the new ball shortly afterwards.

A short ball from Finn struck Gale on the left thumb and he had to receive attention before resuming. He went to his 50 off 99 balls with three fours and the scoring began to accelerate for a while as Leaning contributed his own fair share of good-looking shots.

Gale was in the wars again when he deflected a Finn delivery on to his left elbow on 97 but he was soon acknowledging his century which came off 162 balls and contained 10 fours. His ‘ton’ followed hard on the heels of Leaning’s 50 from 130 balls with three boundaries.

The runs began to come thick and fast, Leaning straight driving Finn for six and dishing out similar treatment to Rayner and Malan but Gale gave little indication of wanting to declare before the close and the lead went beyond the 400 mark.

In attempting another big hit off Malan, Leaning was stumped for 76 to end a fifth-wicket partnership of 182 with his captain, who closed on 126 from 180 balls with 13 fours.