Gary Ballance continued his red hot run of form to help give Yorkshire a chance of Specsavers County Championship victory over Hampshire at Emerald Headingley heading into day four – as long as the weather plays its part.
Ballance posted an unbeaten 83 off 143 balls on a third successive rain-affected day, 17 short of what would be his fourth Division One hundred of the season.
It would also be his fifth in as many matches dating back to the end of last season and his sixth in four-day cricket against Hampshire dating back to 2011.
Yorkshire, who conceded a first-innings lead of 54, started day three on 5-0 and slipped to 20-2 before reaching 207-3, a lead of 153, when rain forced tea 15 minutes early at 3.45pm. There was no further play possible.
Brilliant Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who made a particularly confident 69, shared 141 in 45 overs for the third wicket either side of lunch to reverse the pressure on a Hampshire side who were starting to get ahead in this nip and tuck clash between two of the top three sides in the division.
Openers Harry Brook and Adam Lyth fell inside the first six overs of the day, both caught at second slip by Joe Weatherley for nine off Keith Barker’s left-arm seamers.
However, they then had to wait almost half the day for their next success as Kohler-Cadmore played the lead role early on, looking in particularly good touch.
Some accurate bowling tied Ballance down in the teens before lunch, but he caught up later on, flourishing most in the early stages of the afternoon session.
Kohler-Cadmore was strong through the covers and straight down the ground. A back foot punch through the covers off James Fuller just after lunch was most memorable.
Kohler-Cadmore reached his fifty first off 96 balls and Ballance followed him there around half an hour later off 92. Upon reaching 62, the latter brought up his 500th Championship run of the season.
Ballance, who hit 13 fours, has scored four Championship hundreds this season, and no other White Rose batsman but Joe Root has followed him to that milestone against the red ball.
Unfortunately, Kohler-Cadmore (10×4s, 156 balls) was unable to end that statistic as Ian Holland’s seamers had him lbw playing across one in the 54th over as Yorkshire fell to 161-3, a lead of 107.
Jack Leaning (17 not out) was allowed to settle quickly as he pulled his first three boundaries off erring leg-spinner Mason Crane, while Ballance moved into the eighties as Yorkshire’s lead passed 150 shortly before the rain arrived to take the tally of overs lost in the game beyond 100.
In the Championship this season, Ballance is averaging 104.2.
Should he get to his century at the start of day four, it would be the sixth of his career against Hampshire, equalling Herbert Sutcliffe’s tally against the same county between 1920 and 1939.
Assuming there is a full day’s play – what would be the first in this match – unbeaten Yorkshire will have to put their foot down in the morning in order to set a target and give themselves enough time to bowl Hampshire out.
Play was called off at 17:36pm.