Sometimes you come up against a man in such an extraordinary run of form that you have to take your hat off. Such a situation befell Surrey yesterday as Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale followed up his 272 against Nottinghamshire in early June and 103 against Middlesex ten days ago with another accomplished hundred. He ensured his side had the better of day one as they closed on 292-5.
Vikram Solanki won the toss and asked his opponents to bat first on an overcast day. Twice this season teams have been asked to bat first at Headingley, and on both occasions the team batting first lost by an innings. So there was some logic to Solanki's decision. Andy Flower might not see it the same way mind you, with a very dubious forecast for the weekend he probably would've like to see Kevin Pietersen batting sooner rather than later.
Jon Lewis, selected ahead of Matthew Dunn as suspected, and Chris Tremlett opened the bowling and kept the Yorkshire openers very quiet. Alex Lees took almost seven overs to get off the mark and Adam Lyth wasn't much quicker. Surrey's bowlers may reflect on not making them play the ball more often though.
Partly thanks to Tremlett's opening spell of 5-2-4-0 Yorkshire had just nine runs on the board at the end of the ninth over. However a change in the bowling meant the runs flowed a little more freely and by the end of the 16th over both batsmen were established as the partnership approached 50. Indeed it hit exactly that as the players left the field for an early lunch thanks to bad light.
The immediate period after lunch brought Surrey's most successful bowling spell of the day. With the score on 62 Tremlett induced some extra bounce from the pitch and the ball pinged off the edge of Lyth's bat to Solanki at slip. Lees followed just an over later as Zander de Bruyn trapped him leg before, and then Joe Sayers continued a poor run of form by edging Tim Linley to slip. Three wickets had fallen for just 15 runs in nine overs leaving Yorkshire needing to rebuild on 77-3.
But they're not top of the table for nothing and Gale put on a very fine double century partnership with the excellent Gary Ballance to wrest the initiative back for his side. Gale was very much the aggressor as he went to his fifty off 77 balls and then his hundred from 137, while Ballance was much more circumspect. The partnership was finally broken by Jon Lewis with the second new ball in hand, and he followed the wicket of Ballance with that of the in-form Adil Rashid as Surrey ended the day on a positive note.
Having sent your opponents in to bat ideally you want to have them all out in a day, as we did with Sussex. So with only half their batsmen back in the pavilion, the day belonged to Yorkshire. There is life in the wicket and there will be some fine bowling for Surrey to face. We need to pick off the final five wickets for significantly less than 400 runs to have much hope in this match. And we need the weather to play ball.
The Ashes demons
9 hours ago