Smart Alex leads the way as Yorkshire dominate Durham on day one
Durham endured a disappointing day on the first day of their Specsavers County Championship Division One match against Yorkshire at Headingley.
Alex Lees hit a polished 132 and completed 1,000 first-class runs for the season as title-holders Yorkshire built up a big score to help their bid to win the championship for a third successive year.
Put in to bat after an uncontested toss, Yorkshire found few terrors in the pitch as they closed on 341-5.
Lees, who passed 1,000 Championship runs for the first time, again showed his liking for Durham’s bowling, which featured just three seamers. His last Headingley century was against them in July 2014, and earlier this summer at Chester-le-Street he weighed in with 71 and 74.
Although the pitch had a greenish tinge at the start and the weather was humid, the bowlers were never allowed to get on top even though Adam Lyth fell in the fourth over, steering Graham Onions straight to Keaton Jennings at gully.
With every bonus point precious to Yorkshire, who began trailing leaders Middlesex by only four in the title race, Lees was in positive mood from the off. Once he got a few frenzied strokes out of his system, he played as well as at any time this season.
Gary Ballance was also in something like his best form and, with both batsmen striking the ball fluently, good progress was made. Lees needed only 60 balls for his half-century and by lunch the second-wicket stand was already into three figures.
Ballance’s 50 came soon after the interval off 91 balls and when Yorkshire had galloped on to 144-1, Durham’s fortunes were not helped by wicketkeeper Michael Richardson having to leave the field with a hand injury.
Versatile captain Paul Collingwood took over behind the stumps and soon helped bring the 163 stand to a close with a diving catch to his left as Ballance followed one from Barry McCarthy, after making 71 from 125 balls with 11 boundaries.
Just before losing his partner, Lees reached the 1,000-run mark in unorthodox fashion, when he took a quick single and Jack Burnham’s direct hit on the stumps ricocheted to the boundary for four overthrows.
Captain Andrew Gale was bowled round his legs by Onions for 17, but there was still time before tea for Lees, having slowed down in the 90s, to reach his third century of the season from 171 balls, with 11 fours and a six.
Jake Lehmann, making his first appearance on the ground where his father, Darren, signed off with 339 against Durham in 2006, showed a similar style to the former Yorkshire favourite.
He and Lees added 87 before Lees smacked a full toss back to Pringle having faced 222 deliveries, with 16 fours and a six.
Lehmann cut Onions for four to go to his half-century, from 86 balls with seven boundaries, but in attempting another cut, this time off Chris Rushworth, he was well caught low down by Pringle at gully.
Richardson returned to relieve Collingwood of the gloves, but Tim Bresnan and Andy Hodd had little difficulty in holding out to the close.