YORKSHIRE’S Gary Ballance has been given some useful hints on how to approach spin on the sub-continent by Yorkshire and England team-mate Joe Root ahead of the Test series in Bangladesh.
Ballance is expected to retain his spot in the middle order for the matches in Chittagong and Dhaka, despite failing to fully convince on his recall to the side against Pakistan over the summer.
He is not taking his place for granted, though, after preparing himself for the slow, low pitches he is likely to come across in the next few weeks.
He turned to Dave Houghton, the former Zimbabwe captain and now Middlesex batting coach, and Yorkshire off-spinner Azeem Rafiq for help, while Root – widely regarded as one of the best players of spin in the England team – also offered his input.
Ballance said: “Watching him play spin, he’s one of the best around, I got a few tips from him and just watching him play is always helpful.
“Talking to him about it is good. He’s got his way of playing and it’s been successful.”
England play two two-day warm-up fixtures over the course of the next four days and Ballance is hopeful his preparation will reap rewards early in his tour.
He said: “There’s going to be a lot of spin, I think we know that. I’ve done a few weeks before we came out facing a lot of spin.
“I know my method now, I’ve just got to put it into the games and if I can get a decent score early on, it gives you so much confidence for the rest of the trip.”
Ballance averaged only 27.85 over the four Tests against Pakistan, with one half-century, and he admitted his frustration at failing to get a meaningful score which may have silenced his detractors.
He said: “I thought I wasn’t out of place, I felt good in most innings. It would have been nice to kick on and get a big score to cement myself in that middle order.
“I took a lot of positives from that experience and I can definitely build on that.”
He may need a strong showing against Bangladesh to keep his place for the five-Test series against India although he is not putting too much undue pressure on himself.
He added: “If you keep thinking ‘I’ve got to score runs to stay in the side’ ... you can’t think like that, you’ve just got to play each day as it comes, play the situation of the game.
“If I can have a good winter then it’ll be great to cement myself but there’s a lot of work to actually do that.”
Eoin Morgan will return as captain for England’s next one-day assignment in India despite missing the series victory over Bangladesh.
Morgan and opening batsman Alex Hales pulled out of the Bangladesh tour due to security fears, so Jos Buttler took charge for the three-match series which England won 2-1 after seeing off the hosts by four wickets in the decider in Chittagong.
England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss said the decisions of Morgan and Hales allowed other players to stake a claim for their spots, but assistant coach Paul Farbrace revealed both will retain their positions.
He said: “There are a lot of good friends in this team which makes it easier for Morgs and Hales to come back in the side – and they will come back in in January. Morgs will be captain in India.”
Farbrace said before the series he was “massively disappointed” with the pair opting out, but he thinks Morgan’s presence was still felt in his absence.
Farbrace said: “Of course you might be disappointed that people are not available, whether that’s through injury or loss of form, or whatever it might be, you’re always disappointed.
“But Morgs has very much been the driver behind this team moving forward.”