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Gary Ballance century helps Yorkshire to victory over Unicorns
Gary Ballance signed off for England Lions duty with a brilliant century to help Yorkshire to overcome a spirited Unicorns display and secure a 32-run YB40 triumph at Headingley.
Playing his final game before reporting for the Lions’ two-day match against Australia at Northampton on Friday alongside Yorkshire team-mates Liam Plunkett and Alex Lees, Ballance said farewell in style with the highest one-day score of his Yorkshire career, hitting 139 off 113 balls, including 15 fours and three sixes.
His efforts helped Yorkshire to reach 266-6, their highest total of a disappointing YB40 campaign, and they dismissed the Unicorns for 234 in reply after the off-spin of York’s Jack Leaning claimed 5-22. The Unicorns’ last six wickets fell for just 32 runs.
It was only Yorkshire’s third win in ten matches in this competition, but was a satisfying one nevertheless for Jason Gillespie, their head coach, who has drafted in former Yorkshire captain Anthony McGrath to assist with coaching duties this week while Martyn Moxon, the director of cricket, helps out with the second team in Northumberland.
“It’s nice to get a win in this competition,” admitted Gillespie.
“We’ve not been at our best in this competition for various reasons and the one thing we’ve talked about throughout is someone going out and getting a score and Gary Ballance was outstanding today.
“We have seen a great innings and a great partnership between Ballance and Lees and the most pleasing thing was that those two lads didn’t allow the Unicorns spinners to settle in the middle overs, which we have struggled with this season.
“They kept that intent and today was one of the few times we’ve gone out and done that well.”
His display was the highlight of Yorkshire’s innings after being put into bat and slipping to 16-2 with Andrew Gale and Dan Hodgson both falling to slip catches and providing Ballance and Lees with the platform to forge a 134-run partnership spanning 23 overs.
That stand was broken when Lees fell lbw to former Durham and Derbyshire all-rounder Garry Park trying to sweep after scoring 63 off 74 balls, while Adam Lyth fell to the same bowler searching for quick runs and Leaning was bowled by seamer Aneurin Norman.
It teamed Ballance up with Plunkett in a destructive partnership that transformed Yorkshire’s total from par to commanding, adding 76 off only 35 balls.
Their stand included Ballance hitting 24 off the 38th over of the innings from seamer Dominic Reed before holing out to long-on with two balls remaining.
The healthy 2,300 crowd may have expected a Yorkshire romp against a Unicorns team still waiting to register their first win this summer, but instead they encountered frustrating resistance with former Derbyshire batsman Matt Lineker hitting 107 off 105 balls, his first century in any form of county cricket.
He forged a 77-run opening stand with Thomas Lancefield, who edged Plunkett behind for 39, but none of the other Unicorns batsmen were able to keep him company for long enough.
Lineker became Leaning’s first victim, lbw pushing forward, to prompt the Unicorns’ late collapse.
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