Gary Ballance scored his highest Specsavers County Championship score with a stunning double century to salvage a draw for Yorkshire against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
Captain Ballance was at his careful, glorious best as he totted up 203 not out – beating his previous best of 174. Hampshire came out the clash with 11 points to Yorkshire’s eight to remain unbeaten this season.
But the man of the match was undoubtedly Ballance, who managed to outshine England Test duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow with a ton in each innings. He backed up his 108 in the first dig with a battling yet seemingly calm 203.
Ballance started the day on 78 not out and turned that into three figures mid-way through the morning off 210 balls. The Zimbabwean-born man appeared in little danger on a flat track with an old ball getting softer.
Hampshire had been kept in the field for over two days having ended their first innings at tea on day two and forced their visitors to follow-on. They were also hindered as for the second game in succession they were forced to bowled with a bowler light, Brad Wheal nursing a side strain.
CLOSE: A shake of hands comes as expected here, and the match has been declared a draw. 🌹&👑 pic.twitter.com/xLTYE9zKBZ— Hampshire Cricket (@hantscricket) April 24, 2017
Hampshire were waiting patiently for the 19 morning overs before they would be rewarded with a new ball, with which they believed would allow them to force a win. But the hosts managed to strike to end an 88-run stand between Ballance and Australian star Peter Handscomb.
Handscomb went too early with a flick to the leg side to chip a leading edge back to bowler Liam Dawson. The new cherry arrived and worked immediately as Kyle Abbott forced Jonny Bairstow into a thick edge with the first delivery after changing balls – James Vince completing the wicket with the catch.
Yet Ballance seemed untroubled with the shiny and harder ball and continued to drag the game towards a draw. With Tim Bresnan, the pair added slow runs to make any potential chase disappear which holding strongly onto their wicket.
Yorkshire head coach Andrew Gale: “Given the position we were in we were backs to the wall. But Gary has had a special game, as he has been for the first couple of games.
“He has stood up as captain and been resilient but that really was a special knock to save the game.”
Bresnan rode his luck twice when he was dropped by James Vince at third slip on 10, and again on 14 – this time by Jimmy Adams at second slip with a tough low chance. Ballance, who had become the first Yorkshire skipper to score a century in both innings in a match, brought up his 150 in 336 balls.
The duo put on 94 runs for the sixth wicket in 42 overs before Bresnan fell shortly after tea when Reece Topley found his outside edge to feather behind.
Ballance cut away to the boundary to bring up a double century from 384 balls. And with that, at 4:50pm, James Vince and Ballance shock hands to finalise the result.
Hampshire director of cricket Giles White was full of praise for the Yorkshire skipper: “Gary Ballance played outstandingly well and was really resilient, he was strong mentally and saw his side to a draw."