JACK Leaning was at the heart of an encouraging Yorkshire batting day with 85 as they had the better of things against Middlesex at the start of their Specsavers County Championship match at Headingley.

The county’s top order has come under much scrutiny this summer, with their lack of runs contributing to a worrying slide towards the wrong end of Division One.

They came into this fixture, their 10th of 14, just 23 points clear of the bottom two with three wins, three draws and four defeats to their name.

Thankfully, after Tuesday’s opening day was washed out due to rain, they stood up and returned a performance of note, with Leaning and wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd (51) both passing 50 on the way to a close of play 317-7 from 98 overs.

This was Yorkshire’s first time beyond 300 in their last nine completed Championship innings, with them bowled out for 113 and 150 in last month’s defeat against leaders Essex at Scarborough.

This day was not without alarm after visiting captain James Franklin opted for an uncontested toss on a true pitch with plenty of pace and carry.

Yorkshire slipped from 77-1 to 116-4 in the first eleven overs of the afternoon, losing Adam Lyth for 40, Gary Ballance for 12 and Alex Lees for 27.

New opener Shaun Marsh fell lbw for 22 playing around one from Steven Finn before lunch as the score fell to 39-1 in the 19th over, but that was the only wicket to fall in a morning which saw Middlesex bowl tidily without being over threatening.

James Harris’s first six overs were all maidens having come on first change from the Football Stand End.

Lyth was the first of the afternoon wickets to go for 40 when he edged a Harris beauty behind from short of a length.

The left-handed opener, awaiting the birth of his first child this week, had battled hard before expanding late in his innings.

Ballance, batting for Yorkshire for the first time since the reverse fixture at Lord’s in late June due to England commitments and injury, then chased a ball from Finn and edged behind.

When Lees fell lbw playing to leg against Franklin’s left-arm seamers, Yorkshire were four down and rocking.

But 23-year-old Leaning and Hodd put the pressure back on the champions with a stand of 114 inside 30 overs either side of tea.

Leaning reached his second successive fifty in the Championship off 58 balls shortly before the break, while Hodd posted his milestone off 87 balls just afterwards.

Leaning, like Lyth and Hodd, battled hard before expanding, although he did go into his shell again after reaching 50 and faced 142 balls in all.

Hodd fell shortly before the new ball in the 74th over when he edged Franklin behind with the score now 230-5.

Yorkshire picked up a second batting point for passing 250 immediately before Middlesex took the second new ball through Finn and Tim Murtagh.

Murtagh removed Leaning and Adil Rashid with successive deliveries at the end of the 85th over, bowled playing to leg and lbw, as the score fell to 270-7.

But there was no further alarms for Yorkshire as Tim Bresnan and Liam Plunkett shared an unbroken 47 with 26 and 34 not out. Bad light ended play six overs early.