For those not too engrossed by the ongoing World T20, the Spring equinox bloomed two very welcome returns in Abu Dhabi: The comebacks of county cricket and Gary Ballance.
While one good knock doesn’t make an international batsman, Ballance, a man who hasn’t donned the England whites since July, orchestrated a superb knock to lead Yorkshire to 275 all out on a fascinating opening day against the MCC XI.
This was not merely a knock under no pressure: With his side stuttering at 88/5 after winning the toss, the 26-year-old continued his magnificent tour to reach a half-century before tea.
Alongside Will Rhodes, who made a first-class best of 95, the two pushed the county champions back to parity, despite three wickets from James Tredwell, a man once thought to be the answer to England’s spin problem.
And the international calibre in Abu Dhabi wasn’t done there. Alex Lees, tipped for future stardom, opened alongside Adam Lyth, yet lasted just two balls before being pinned lbw by Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball.
Lyth was the next to go, caught at third slip off Warwickshire’s Rikki Clarke, while Tredwell then made his own mark on the game to put Yorkshire four wickets down by lunch.
The Kent man had Andrew Gale caught behind for 23 and Jack Leaning was bowled as one of six players to be out for a single-figure score in the Sheikh Zayed stadium.
But the turning point came after lunch: Tim Bresnan, another of the former international brigade, became Tredwell’s first wicket, but Ballance and Rhodes brought order to a Yorkshire side who won this fixture by nine wickets 12 months ago.
The pair put on 125 together for the sixth wicket, with Ballance in particular scoring important runs as he looks to catch the selectors’ eyes ahead of the Test series against Sri Lanka which starts in May.
The Zimbabwean-born number three maintained the composure and temperament which has seen him to a first-class average of more than 50, coming in at 0/1 to post his second century of the tour.
When Ballance was finally dismissed for 105 from 210 balls, lbw to Samit Patel, his wicket sparked a collapse of 4/21 as Yorkshire slipped to 234/9.
Graham Onions (ex-England, don’t you know) dismissied Steven Patterson and Jack Brooks in consecutive balls, both for 0, while Andrew Hodd was bowled by Ball.
Rhodes remained, however, breaching his previous first-class best of 79 to make 95, nursing number 11 Karl Carver and the White Rose to 275 before becoming Clarke’s second wicket.
That gave Ian Bell’s MCC one over to negotiate, with nightwatchman James Harris blocking out six Brooks balls to keep his side scoreless heading into Day Two.