The biggest game of the season, a possible title-deciding clash between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, got underway at Trent Bridge yesterday and it was the visitors and leaders of division one who held the advantage.
Both sides named very strong line-ups at the start of the day's play after their England players returned from duty. Yorkshire's side was bolstered by the in-form Joe Root returning and they also had the huge talents of Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan to call upon.
Nottinghamshire, meanwhile, had no less talent with Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and
James Taylor in their ranks.
Before the start of day one, Yorkshire topped the division one table, 26 points ahead of theirNottinghamshire. A victory at Trent Bridge would assure them of the title for the first time since 2001.
Yorkshire won a crucial toss and decided to bat first. Their batsmen have very rarely failed this season and they did not disappoint this time either.
The formidable pairing of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees produced another wonderful opening partnership of 176 before Lees was eventually dismissed by spinner Gary Keedy for a well-made 86.
The story could have been different if Notts wicket-keeper Chris Read had held on to a difficult chance off Lyth from just the second ball of the match.
Lyth, who must surely be capturing the attention of the England selectors, took advantage of Read's mistake and continued his prolific form by reaching his sixth century of the season and, in the process, cemented his position as the leading run-scorer in division one. His innings comes just days after his double-century inspired Yorkshire to a crushing Roses victory over Lancashire at Old Trafford.
England's number three Ballance joined Lyth and they took the score to 271
before Keedy dismissed Lyth for a fantastic 122. At this stage Notts fought back to reduce Yorkshire to 298-4 with Root and Bairstow contributing13 between them.
However, Ballance (82*) regained some composure for Yorkshire, as he and Jack Leaning (8*) battled their way through to the close to leave the visitors on 319-4, with three batting points already in the bag.
With Ballance at the crease on day two Yorkshire have the chance to drive home their advantage and heap the pressure on Nottinghamshire.
Notts will want to restrict Yorkshire to below 400 in their first innings and then hope to bat well themselves on day two. Lyth and Lees have put Notts on the back foot but there is still time in the match to turn their fortunes around. They will be happy with how they fought back in the final session and will take heart from that on day two.
Yorkshire will be very happy with their performance, particularly after starting the match without their captain Andrew Gale who was banned for the final two games due to disciplinary issues in both Roses battles this season.
Root has taken over the captaincy and he will want to cap a fine individual season by winning the title for his county.
The title race is not over just yet but Yorkshire are edging closer. There may be more twists and turns ahead but Notts will need to respond positively on day two to keep the race alive.
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