Yorkshire battled hard for their runs on the opening day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, reaching close on 197-6 from 86 overs.
The White Rose, inserted by home captain James Vince on a challenging surface, advanced their cause through a series of valuable contributions without anyone yet reaching a half-century following an even day’s play.
Four batsmen all made it to at least 20 and seven to double figures, with Dom Bess top-scoring with 45 not out off 75 balls from number six in the order.
Gary Ballance also contributed 42 off 119 balls on a ground where he just loves batting.
The left-hander has now scored 1,049 first-class runs in eight and a half first-class career fixtures. That record includes five scores of 100 or more – one for England and four for Yorkshire – with a best of 203.
For Hampshire, former South African Test fast bowler Kyle Abbott led the way for them with 3-46 from 18 overs.
This is the first game of four in the Championship’s top group which will decide the county champions and the Bob Willis Trophy finalists.
Warwickshire started this final group phase on 21 points, with Somerset on 18.5, Lancashire 16.5, Hampshire 8.5, Nottinghamshire 5 and Yorkshire 4.5.
Yorkshire enjoyed a productive morning. While the runs didn’t come at any kind of rate, the visitors were able to repel some tight bowling in tricky conditions. Sideways movement and a touch of uneven bounce were evident.
Sixteen out of the 31 overs bowled were maidens, with only Adam Lyth falling – lbw for six to Abbott – as the score reached 60-1 at lunch.
George Hill encouraged again at the top of the order for 31, as he did against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road during the initial phase of the competition.
Unfortunately, though, having grafted hard through the morning, he was trapped lbw by Abbott with the first ball of the afternoon session.
It was the first of three wickets in the afternoon, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Harry Brook both falling.
In his short innings of six, Lyth reached 10,000 career Championship runs. He is the first Yorkshire batsman to achieve that feat entirely in the 21st century and the first to do it overall since Anthony McGrath in 2008.
The tally of maidens throughout the day far outweighed boundaries, 29 to 21.
Kohler-Cadmore, batting at three, battled hard and had reached 20 by the time he edged a pushed drive at Abbott behind midway through the afternoon, leaving the score at 84-3 after 45 overs.
Abbott’s fellow seamer Brad Wheal struck shortly before tea when Brook was bowled through the gate for (13) – 114-4 in the 61st over.
Play took place under the floodlights from late morning onwards.
Ballance worked through the leg-side and deflected his four boundaries before falling as the first of two evening wickets when he chipped Liam Dawson’s left-arm spin to mid-wicket, where Joe Weatherley took the first of two catches (138-5 in the 70th).
That left Dom Bess with the senior role at the crease, joined by Harry Duke.
They chipped away at the runs, with the latter making 12 before he edged Scotsman Wheal to Weatherley low down at second slip, leaving the score at 159-6 in the 75th.
At this stage of the day, all eyes were on umpires Nigel Llong and James Middlebrook given the quality of the light.
But, admirably, they kept the players out on the field until 5.45pm.
And Yorkshire will be grateful for that decision as Bess and Jordan Thompson enjoyed a productive 11.3 over spell which yielded 38 runs.
Thompson hit both of his boundaries down the ground in an unbeaten 15, while the excellent Bess edged, work, drove and cut his four.
There were 10 overs remaining when Llong and Middlebrook opted for the sanctuary of the pavilion with the visitors surely satisfied with their work to say the least.