GARY BALLANCE is determined to put to bed once and for all any argument as to whether he is good enough to play international cricket after being named in England’s Ashes squad.
The Yorkshire captain has been included in a 16-man party that also features county team-mates Joe Root, the England Test captain, and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
Ballance is back after suffering a broken left index finger in the second Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge in July and losing his place to Essex’s Tom Westley.
But with Westley axed after managing only 193 runs in five Tests, Ballance is likely to face a battle with present incumbent Dawid Malan for the No.5 role, with recalled Hampshire batsman James Vince pencilled in to replace Westley at No.3.
Ballance, Vince and Malan will effectively fight it out for two places in the three warm-up games ahead of the first Test in Brisbane on November 23.
“It’s a huge honour to be in the squad, and I’m going to have a week off now and then work as hard as I can so that I’m ready and prepared for the challenge,” said Ballance, whose last crack at Test cricket brought him 85 runs in four innings against South Africa before he broke his finger.
“I’ve had a lot of criticism along the way, but that’s part and parcel, and I honestly just expect it now; I wake up expecting it.
“That’s why it’s Test cricket, and you’ve got to be able to deal with those challenges.
“I’ve batted everywhere in the last few years, so wherever I bat, I’d be happy.”
Ballance, who averages 37 from 23 Tests, has had a fine season for Yorkshire, scoring 951 County Championship runs at 67.
I’ve had a lot of criticism along the way, but that’s part and parcel, and I honestly just expect it now; I wake up expecting it. That’s why it’s Test cricket, and you’ve got to be able to deal with those challenges.Yorkshire cazptain, Gary Ballance on his England test recall for this winter’s Ashes
However, the 27-year-old left-hander admitted that he was slightly surprised to win a Test recall.
“I’m a little bit surprised, but the two Tests I played this summer, I thought I was going well before I broke my finger,” he said.
“I feel in a good place and can’t wait to get going now.
“I made my debut on the last Ashes tour in Sydney, and I’m very much looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a great place to go and play cricket, but a tough place too.”
Ballance will be joined on the tour by Ben Stokes, who keeps his place as vice-captain despite his arrest in Bristol on Monday.
Stokes was held on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm following an incident outside a nightclub and released under investigation without charge.
Stokes broke his right little finger during a fracas that put a man in hospital, but the Durham all-rounder is expected to be fit for Brisbane.
The Ashes squad also includes three uncapped players in the form of Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane, the Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes and the Somerset pace bowler Craig Overton.
Crane will be Moeen Ali’s understudy and Foakes will be Bairstow’s, while Overton comes in following injuries to Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones.
Vince is back for the first time since August 2016, despite averaging only 19 in seven Tests and 33 in this year’s Championship.
“The selectors are backing James Vince to make an impact on his recall to the Test squad,” said national selector James Whitaker.
“He is a quality stroke player and we believe his game will suit the Australian pitches.
“His understanding of the England set-up will help him settle into the environment quickly and hit the ground running when we arrive in Perth next month.”
Commenting on the new recruits, Whitaker said: “Surrey’s Ben Foakes deserves his selection for the first time at this level. His glove work has been exemplary and he is regarded as a wicketkeeper of the highest quality.
“He has the ability to contribute with the bat, with him scoring over 680 runs in the Championship this summer at an average of 45.33.
“Craig Overton, who, like Foakes, has come through the International Pathway, has been involved in the England set-up this summer with the Lions and the T20 squad.
“He will now get his chance at Test level, and we have been impressed with the way he has led Somerset’s attack over a long period of time.”
England have appointed former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond as fast bowling consultant until the end of the second Test. Former England one-day captain Paul Collingwood will also take a coaching role during the Test and subsequent one-day series.
Kent head coach Matt Walker will assist England for the T20 series in Australia and New Zealand early next year.
England will name their Lions squad to tour Australia on Monday and, on Wednesday, their ODI squad for the Australia tour, plus the latest round of central contracts.
England’s Ashes squad: Root (captain), Ali, Anderson, Bairstow, Ball, Ballance, Broad, Cook, Crane, Foakes, Malan, C. Overton, Stokes, Stoneman, Vince, Woakes.