YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale scored an unbeaten century during the third day of their LV= County Championship match against Middlesex at Scarborough to put his side on course for victory.
Gale posted his second ton of 2014, a season’s best 126 not out, to help the hosts close on 400-5 from 109 overs of their second innings, which amounts to a lead of 421.
Alex Lees, Kane Williamson and York's Jack Leaning, who made 76, also added half-centuries to put the division one title chasers in a strong position having started the day at 29-1, leading by 50.
Second-wicket pair Lees and Williamson shared 132 inside 40 overs through the morning having come together late on day two.
Fifth-wicket pair Gale and Leaning came together before tea and batted through until the closing stages of the day to share 182 inside 45 overs.
They scored the lion’s share of 75 runs in the last ten overs of the day, including three straight sixes for 20-year-old Leaning in four balls faced against Steven Finn, Ollie Rayner and Dawid Malan.
There was a thought that the duo could have opened their shoulders a bit earlier to allow them to start bowling before close, but Gale said the second new ball coming so quickly after tea meant they could not go out all guns blazing then.
"The new ball was due three overs after tea,” he said, having faced 180 balls and hit 13 fours. “If we'd have gone too hard at the new ball and lost three wickets, then you're fighting the game back and can't accelerate.
“The key was to get me and Jack a good partnership. The way we accelerated at the end, we scored at a good click and set the game up nicely. I thought we played the situation perfectly.”
Gale, who offered a tough one-handed chance to Chris Rogers at point on 40, would not be drawn on whether or not he will declare before the start of play or bat on for a few overs. He is expected to do the former.
"I thought it was a good day,” he said. “It was set up nicely by the two lads in the morning (Lees and Williamson). It is a tough pitch at times, especially when the ball's hard. I thought to dominate like we did puts us in a great position.
"The new ball's crucial, getting Chris Rogers out early. We'll see what happens.”
While Gale continued his liking for this venue - he scored a big double hundred here last year - York youngster Leaning enhanced his impressive breakthrough campaign with three fours and as many sixes in 143 balls before being stumped against Malan’s leg-spin.
Gale, who was struck painful blows on the left thumb and elbow by Finn, added: “When you're losing guys like Ballance, Root and Plunkett to England, you need the young lads to step up and do the job, and I think Jack's had a fantastic year.”
LV= County Championship
Yorkshire v Middlesex
Yorkshire First Innings: 253 (A Lyth 117; S T Finn 4-81).
Middlesex First Innings: 232 (J A Simpson 110, D J Malan 78; R J Sidebottom 7-44).
Yorkshire Second Innings
A Lyth c Malan b T J Murtagh 9
A Z Lees c Malan b T J Murtagh 67
K S Williamson c Rayner b T J Murtagh 62
A W Gale not out 126
J M Bairstow c Helm b Roland-Jones 32
J A Leaning st Simpson b Malan 76
A U Rashid not out 5
Extras (b10 lb10 w1 nb2) 23
Total 5 wkts (109 overs) 400
Fall: 1-14 2-146 3-155 4-201 5-383.
Bowling: T J Murtagh 23-6-64-3, Finn 20-3-88-0, Roland-Jones 18-3-71-1, Rayner 27-2-94-0, Helm 17-2-44-0, Malan 4-1-19-1.