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Key title clash in the Ballance

Gary Ballance impressed yet again as he recorded a century for Division One leaders Yorkshire on the opening day of their crunch LV= County Championship fixture with Warwickshire at Headingley.

The Zimbabwe-born left-hander provided the backbone to his side's innings after they were put in to bat with a chanceless 112, but the reigning champions bowled well to reduce their opponents to at the close.

It was Ballance's third championship century of the season, his fourth in all first-class matches, and it followed on the heels of consecutive scores of 141, 90 and 66.

Yorkshire have already registered a crushing victory by an innings and 139 runs over their opponents this season but Warwickshire came into the game in good form and with ambitions of retaining their title still alive.

Early conditions aided movement through the air and off the pitch and were well exploited by Warwickshire's quartet of fast bowlers.

Adam Lyth and Alex Lees coped adequately with the new ball before Yorkshire lost two wickets in consecutive overs from Chris Woakes and Keith Barker - Lyth being drawn forward to give a catch to Rikki Clarke at second slip and skipper Andrew Gale edging to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose for a third-ball duck.

Ballance joined Lees at 26 for two and the pair grew in confidence to take Yorkshire to lunch on 88 without further loss.

Once again, Lees looked in the sort of splendid form that brought him an unbeaten 275 in the previous match against Derbyshire at Chesterfield and he steered Barker to the third man boundary to complete his half-century off 99 balls.

He added a seventh boundary by cutting Woakes backward of point to take Yorkshire into three figures but in the same over he feathered a drive and was held in the slips by Varun Chopra.

Yorkshire were in trouble at 123 for four when Adil Rashid was caught behind as he attempted to lift a ball from Boyd Rankin over the slips, leaving it to Ballance to shore up the innings.

With help at the other end from Azeem Rafiq, who played some positive strokes, Ballance completed his fifty off 95 balls with eight fours and the stand was worth 50 when Rafiq went for 28, caught at third slip by Jeetan Patel to bring Clarke his first wicket.

Andrew Hodd also gave valuable assistance either side of tea and Ballance went to his century in style, stepping down the pitch to straight drive Patel for six. He had faced 171 balls and struck 13 fours.

However, the promising stand was ended just as it was starting to flourish when Hodd bottom-edged Clarke into his stumps, before Liam Plunkett departed lbw to Barker in the first over with the second new ball.

Barker then ended Ballance’s 196-ball innings with another lbw as the Yorkshire batsman failed to make contact with one which kept a touch low.

Ryan Sidebottom departed to an acrobatic legside catch by Ambrose off Woakes but the last wicket pair of Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks managed to survive until the close, adding a spirited 27 to take Yorkshire within six runs of a third batting bonus point.