Centurion Gary Ballance and Alex Lees dominated the Northamptonshire bowling attack during a superb fourth-wicket stand of 156 as Yorkshire recovered from 57-3 to close day one at Headingley in good health at 328-7 from 92 overs.
Left-handers Ballance and Lees batted for much of the afternoon and into the evening session on the way to 117 not out and 90 respectively.
This was Ballance’s fourth hundred in his last four first-class matches for Yorkshire dating back to the end of last season. He faced 188 balls and hit 18 fours and a six.
Andrew Gale had elected to bat first upon winning the toss, but last year’s promotion winners Northants enjoyed the best of a rain-affected morning as Yorkshire went into lunch on 39-2.
They lost Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson cheaply before Gale fell just after lunch, with swing proving a useful tool for the seamers.
Lyth was caught behind off Azharullah three and a half overs into a day which saw four overs lost due to two brief rain breaks during the morning session.
Williamson was later trapped lbw by former South Africa Test all-rounder Andrew Hall’s sixth ball, leaving the score at 21-2 after 12.
And when Gale was trapped lbw by Azharullah, who played league cricket in Bradford and Huddersfield before joining the Wantage Road club last season, Yorkshire were tottering in the 26th.
But, thankfully from a White Rose perspective, that was about as good as it got for the visitors as Ballance and Lees put their side in an excellent position as the sun started to shine.
Northants will rue missing Lees twice on 50 and 51. The 21-year-old was dropped at first slip by Hall on 50 off Maurice Chambers before surviving a missed stumping chance from David Murphy on 51 against off-spinner James Middlebrook.
An emphatic pulled six from Ballance against Azharullah briefly took him level with Lees on 76 after tea, but the latter quickly pressed ahead towards 90.
Unfortunately, he fell ten short of what would have been a third Championship hundred when he was rapped on the pads by Hall with the first ball of his third spell. That left Yorkshire at 213-4 in the 67th, ending their 41-over alliance.
Ballance and Adil Rashid (33) took Yorkshire beyond 250 in the 74th over before Ballance brought up his 20th first-class hundred off 143 balls with 18 fours and a six in the next over.
Like Ballance and Lees, Rashid also continued his good form after his Taunton century and looked in good order before Steven Crook got him lbw with the second new ball on the horizon and the score on 275 in the 79th over.
Andrew Hodd was dropped early in his innings by Kyle Coetzer at third slip, and he had moved to 21 by the time Chambers trapped him lbw as well, leaving Yorkshire at 309-6 after 87.
Hall also got the day’s sixth lbw when he removed Liam Plunkett with another 15 added to the total.
Ballance and Ryan Sidebottom will return to the crease in the morning. Hall finished with 3-72 from 20 overs.
Alex Lees and Gary Ballance have both scored unbeaten fifties in an impressive Yorkshire recovery during the afternoon session of day one against Northamptonshire at Headingley.
The fourth-wicket pair have recovered things from 57-3 to 171-3 from 56 overs at tea following the only wicket of the afternoon, Andrew Gale trapped lbw by Azharullah.
Lees brought up his fifty off 113 balls before Ballance reached his off 63. Lees has survived two chances – dropped at first slip by Andrew Hall on 50 off Maurice Chambers before surviving a missed stumping chance from David Murphy on 51. Off-spinner James Middlebrook was the bowler.
Lees will resume this evening on 68 not out, while Ballance is unbeaten on 60.
Northamptonshire have enjoyed the better of a shortened morning session on day one at Headingley thanks to the cheap wickets of Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson.
Both men fell to leave the hosts at 21-2 after they had won the toss. We have seen two brief stoppages for rain, while the Northants’ attack have bowled well with swing handing them significant help.
Lyth was caught behind off Azharullah in the fourth over before Williamson was trapped lbw by Andrew Hall at the end of his first over – the 12th.
Yorkshire have reached lunch on 39-2 after 19 overs, with Alex Lees unbeaten on 19 and Andrew Gale two.