Magical McGrath shows his worth
Seventeen years to the day since he first donned the White Rose of Yorkshire, Anthony McGrath proved he still has much to offer his county as his 106 kept them alive on day three of their LV= County Championship clash against Hampshire.
Owing to a run-starved two years, the arrival of Australian Phil Jaques and the emergence of Gary Ballance, some observers had predicted that the 36-year-old would have been anywhere other than at the heart of his side’s batting line-up seven games into the season.
But despite watching Jaques make 93 and Ballance 76, McGrath showed he still has a big part to play in Yorkshire’s bid to return to Division One, digging in for a 189-ball vigil that offered just one chance on 61.
Batting largely with a weak-looking tail he dragged Jason Gillespie’s side to 399 for nine declared, 28 runs shy of Hampshire’s first-innings score of 427.
And the visitors were then put in for a tricky 10-over spell before the close that was ended 16 balls early by the light at 21 for one and a lead of 49, with Adil Rashid luring Liam Dawson into giving his wicket away.
It was McGrath’s day, though, and his first century since he made 115 against the same opponents last August. His act of salvation rescued Yorkshire from what had looked like an inevitable procession to a follow-on innings.
Resuming on 100 for three and needing 282 to avoid it, Ballance and Jaques rode their luck with a combined total of three streaky shots through and over the slips inside the first six overs.
Their intent was there, however, and when Jaques connected in more authoritative fashion, it saw him become the fourth Division Two player to pass 400 runs for the season.
Zimbabwe-born Ballance then raised his bat from 87 balls, while Jaques got to 14,000 first-class runs with a clip to third man off Kabir Ali.
Knowing the pair had made a match-winning partnership of 203 at Bristol last weekend, Hampshire knew they had to snare at least one of them and, when they got them both inside 20 balls, it signalled a collapse.
First Jaques top-edged Dawson to David Balcombe at short fine-leg, with Ballance joining him in the pavilion when he chased Sean Ervine down the leg side and found the gloves of Michael Bates.
That left Yorkshire on 193 for five and, when Gerard Brophy, who made 22, skied Dawson to Chris Wood and Rashid had his off stump rapped by Balcombe in successive overs, they were on thin ice.
That left McGrath at the crease and with little to play with, but he managed to evade Hampshire’s beefed up slip cordon with two fours that saw off the follow-on.
His 50 arrived in 93 balls, but when Ryan Sidebottom, the last convincing-looking batsman, deserted him for 34 after tea when he nicked Kabir to Bates, his century chances looked incredibly slim.
But he received a second life when Simon Katich shelled him at slip off Dawson and, although Steven Patterson could only hang around to make 12 before Dawson, who took 3-61, and Katich did combine, he made it to 100 with a drive off the spinner.
He was then dropped again by skipper Jimmy Adams, while Iain Wardlaw, with an unbeaten 17, was put down by Kabir and cashed-in by clubbing three straight fours that preceded the declaration.
That brought Hampshire in for half-an-hour and they did not escape unscathed, with Dawson foolishly slapping Rashid to Jaques at point for eight.