Yorkshire v Nottinghamshire (day three): Gary Ballance hoping weather stays kind to boost defending champions’ title defence

NICE START: Jack Brooks celebrates taking the wicket of Notts' Steven Mullaney before lunch at Scaroborough on day three. Picture: Dave Williams.
NICE START: Jack Brooks celebrates taking the wicket of Notts' Steven Mullaney before lunch at Scaroborough on day three. Picture: Dave Williams.
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“THE greatest cricket festival in the whole of the world,” proclaimed Colin Graves of Scarborough during a lunchtime speech in the Festival marquee.

The England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, who is also president of Scarborough CC, described it as “top of my heart list” and promised that the ECB would retain the Scarborough and Cheltenham Festivals amid an ever-changing cricketing climate.

“Scarborough is a passion for me,” added Graves. “The wicket is the best outside the international venues.

“I got that from Steven Finn, who played here for Middlesex this year. He said that Scarborough is the best wicket he played on, which is a credit to Scarborough Cricket Club.”

Graves, the former Yorkshire chairman, thus gave a timely thumbs-up to a ground close to where he used to work as an ice-cream waiter.

With the number of Championship games being reduced from next summer, it is comforting to know that Scarborough retains his personal backing, and also that of the ECB board.

GOOD TOUCH: Stand-in captain Gary Ballance celebrates his second innings century for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough on day three. Picture: Dave Williams.

GOOD TOUCH: Stand-in captain Gary Ballance celebrates his second innings century for Yorkshire against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough on day three. Picture: Dave Williams.

“I had some fantastic times when I worked in Scarborough, but we won’t go into that,” quipped Graves, who used to work at Jaconelli’s just down the road. “It’s always been a special place.”

Graves, who will be Scarborough CC president again next year, was speaking before a gathering of dignitaries and invited guests at a ground where Yorkshire are looking to close the gap on leaders Middlesex.

The champions would reduce that gap to five points with four games left with a win here, which looks a formality weather-permitting.

Notts, the bottom club, go into the final day on 61-3 in their second innings, trailing by 390.

But it is a formality only if Yorkshire can get on the field for long enough, with heavy rain permitting only 35.2 overs yesterday, although much better weather is forecast today.

Yorkshire, who declined to enforce the follow-on despite a lead of 188, will kick themselves from here all the way back to Headingley if the elements enable a Notts’ escape.

They will hope that the inquests prove unnecessary, though, after another commanding display yesterday before bad light, closely followed by heavy rain, prevented play from 2.50.

In gloomy conditions, which explained why the crowd of 2,634 was down from the 5,000 gates on the first two days, Yorkshire resumed on 200-4 in their second innings.

Stand-in captain Gary Ballance had 75 to his name, while Tim Bresnan had yet to score.

After rain delayed the start by 40 minutes, the pair added 62 in 12.2 overs before Ballance declared the innings at 263-4, 25 minutes before lunch, setting Notts a notional 452 to win.

He did so with 101 against his own name, his 29th first-class hundred, and his second Championship century of the season at Scarborough. He faced 164 balls and hit 14 fours, thus taking a big step in his quest to finish the season strongly on a personal level.

Criticism of his international displays have been over-the-top, and his game appears in pretty good order. Ditto Bresnan, who practically comes with the guarantee of runs.

He had made 35 of them from 59 balls with five fours and a straight six off Samit Patel when Ballance called a halt, leaving Yorkshire five overs at their opponents before lunch.

It took only nine balls for Notts to lose their first wicket in pursuit of what would be their second-highest total to win a Championship match, behind the 461-3 achieved at Worcester in 2001.

Jack Brooks, bowling from the Trafalgar Square end, had Steven Mullaney caught at third slip by Jack Leaning as the visitors dined on 4-1.

After Brooks bowled seven overs for 17 either side of lunch, he was replaced by Bresnan, who struck with the first and last balls of his first over to leave Notts rocking on 34-3. Jake Libby played back and was caught at fourth slip by Jake Lehmann, moving smartly to his left, and Michael Lumb was adjudged caught behind.

Lumb, the former Yorkshire batsman, who thus completed a pair, clearly did not think he had hit the ball, and it appeared to be an interesting decision.

In the newspaper, however, it reads: ‘MJ Lumb c Hodd b Bresnan 0’, just as it says ‘TJ Moores not out 41’, the 19-year-old’s innings his highest for Notts, and a performance of great skill and maturity.