Ashes spot is realistic target for Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance

Gary Ballance, in action for England against South Africa earlier this summer before injury ruled him out of the West Indies' series. Picture: Nigel French/PA
Gary Ballance, in action for England against South Africa earlier this summer before injury ruled him out of the West Indies' series. Picture: Nigel French/PA
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MARTYN MOXON has said that he would be “very surprised” if Gary Ballance is not on the winter Ashes tour as he backed the Yorkshire captain to regain his international place.

The county’s director of cricket is confident that Ballance will be selected to go Down Under as England look to retain the urn.

After regaining his Test place at the start of the international season, Ballance’s England hopes are back in the melting pot after he was unable to nail down a permanent position.

The 27-year-old left-hander managed scores of 20, 34, 27 and four in his two Tests against South Africa and suffered a broken finger in the last of those games at Trent Bridge, denying him further chances at Test level this summer.

However, with doubts persisting over the England top-order, as Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan also seek the sort of major contributions that would cement their own positions, Ballance remains a viable alternative for the England selectors.

Prior to his recall, the Zimbabwe-born batsman had scored 815 runs in eight County Championship matches for Yorkshire this season at an average of 101.87, with three centuries and four fifties.

IN THE FRAME: Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance in action against Lancashire earlier this summer. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

IN THE FRAME: Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance in action against Lancashire earlier this summer. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Having been written off by many observers as an international player, Ballance thus made it impossible for the selectors to leave him out through sheer weight of runs.

Although he has not batted in first-team cricket since breaking his left index finger in mid-July, with rain denying him that chance again on Tuesday when the opening day of Yorkshire’s Championship match against Middlesex at Headingley was washed out, a strong finish to the summer in the final four Championship games could yet produce a similar effect.

“I’d be very surprised if Gary is not on the tour to Australia,” said Moxon, “particularly if he has a good finish to the county season.

“I think he’ll definitely be on the selectors’ minds as it is, and, if he has a good four games for us, I don’t think there’d be any doubt that he’d be picked for the tour.

He’ll definitely be on the selectors’ minds as it is, and, if he has a good four games for us, I don’t think there’d be any doubt that he’d be picked for the tour.

Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon

“He’s a terrific cricketer, as he’s shown all season, and a batsman who has a great deal to offer.

“He’s certainly done an excellent job for us this year.”

Although Ballance’s international recall this season was fully deserved, with England captain Joe Root understood to have championed his corner, there are some observers who believe that Ballance was played out of position by the England management.

The decision to bat him at No.3 was criticised, with Root himself understood to be unwilling to move from his favoured position of No.4, and although Ballance by no means performed poorly against a strong South African attack, he might have prospered to greater effect further down the list.

GARY'S YOUR MAN: Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.
 Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

GARY'S YOUR MAN: Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Moxon’s view is that Ballance is better in a middle-order role.

“I think number five is Gary’s best position,” he said. “I’ve always thought that. I just think he’s better suited to it.

“Having said that, it’s obviously up to England and, clearly, he’s going to play wherever they put him. As for Gary, he’s going to want to bat wherever England want him to, so that’s just the way it goes.

“But, from a personal point of view, I do think he’s better at number five.”

Australia's Shaun Marsh through the covers off the back foot as Yorkshire and England's Jonny Bairstow looks on at The Gabba. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

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