Yorkshire v Leicestershire – Gary Ballance sets sights on last Lord’s final

Gary Ballance: Already among the runs. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesGary Ballance: Already among the runs. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Gary Ballance: Already among the runs. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
GARY BALLANCE is determined to show that he can adapt to the fast-changing nature of white-ball cricket by helping Yorkshire to reach the last one-day final to be played at Lord’s.

Ballance has primarily built his reputation on his powers of accumulation in red-ball cricket, powers already in evidence this season as he has racked up 295 runs in four first-class innings at an average of 98.

As Yorkshire today embark on their Royal London Cup 50-over campaign against Leicestershire at Emerald Headingley, chasing their first Lord’s final since 2002 before the competition’s climax moves to Trent Bridge from next summer, the left-hander wants to prove that he remains a man for all formats.

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“The white-ball game is evolving so quickly that if you don’t evolve with it, you kind of get left behind a bit,” said Ballance, referencing the explosion of T20 around the world and the knock-on effect on 50-over skills.

Yorkshire's Tim Bresnan is set to make his first appearance of the season. Picture: Mark Kerton/PAYorkshire's Tim Bresnan is set to make his first appearance of the season. Picture: Mark Kerton/PA
Yorkshire's Tim Bresnan is set to make his first appearance of the season. Picture: Mark Kerton/PA

“I didn’t get to play much one-day cricket during three or four years in-and-out of the Test team (between 2014 and 2017), and I didn’t play many one-day games last year (because of ill-health).

“Because I didn’t play much over that three-to-four-year period in particular, I’ve had to adapt and I need to look at ways to continue to improve. It’s such a fast-moving game (white-ball cricket) and evolving all the time, that you’ve got to stay with it and make sure you keep up.”

Despite his excellent red-ball record, which includes 23 Test appearances and more than 10,500 first-class runs, Ballance actually has a better average in white-ball cricket (49 versus 48).

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He has scored seven one-day hundreds and it is easy to forget that he made 16 one-day international appearances, too, the last of them in 2015.

The 29-year-old perhaps does not receive as much credit as he deserves for his multidimensional talents – evident, also, during 85 appearances in T20 cricket.

He sees himself as someone intent on adapting to all cricketing challenges.

“I don’t see myself as just an accumulator,” he said. “Maybe in red-ball cricket, but I’d like to think that I can hit a couple of one-bounce fours at least (in the white-ball game).

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“I’m pretty happy with my one-day game overall, but, as I say, I’m striving to get better. I didn’t play many games last year, probably half the games and got a few decent scores, but I had a good year the year before and now need to kick on.”

Yorkshire have consistently reached the knockout stages of the One-Day Cup during Ballance’s time only to fall in the quarter-finals or semi-finals.

Not since they beat Somerset in the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy 17 years ago have Yorkshire reached a Lord’s final, and there is a strong desire in the camp to end that hoodoo.

Yorkshire will be boosted in the early stages of this year’s tournament by the availability of England’s Adil Rashid and David Willey for the first three matches, with the club facing Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Good Friday before hosting Lancashire at Headingley on Easter Sunday.

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There is the potential for Willey’s availability to be extended ahead of the international summer but England have not made Test captain Joe Root available.

“It’s a bonus when we get the lads from England to play,” said Ballance, who added that the prospect of resuming his own international career is “not even in my mind”.

He continued: “We’ve played some good cricket in the 50-over comp in the last few years, so, hopefully, we can get a few steps further and get to a Lord’s final, which would be fantastic.

“We’ve definitely got the squad (to challenge), and a lot of players we can call upon, and we’ll be going all out to make a good start.

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“It would be great to play in the last year of the Lord’s final, obviously. It’s a shame that it’s changing but it is what it is and, hopefully, it will be our year.”

Tim Bresnan is in line to make his first appearance of the season today following a back injury suffered in pre-season.

Yorkshire’s 13-man squad also includes pace bowler Mat Pillans and leg-spinner Josh Poysden, but there is no place for batsman Jack Leaning, who is playing for the second XI in a two-day friendly against Lancashire at Scarborough.

Matthew Waite, the 23-year-old all-rounder who, along with Leaning, played in the Championship game at Hampshire that finished on Sunday, is rested, with Yorkshire planning to rotate their attack during a flurry of fixtures.

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Yorkshire play eight group matches between today and May 6, with the competition being played up to and including the semi-final stage before their next Championship match at Kent on May 14. The One-Day Cup final takes place on May 25.

Yorkshire (from): Ballance, Bresnan, Brook, Coad, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Olivier, Patterson (captain), Pillans, Poysden, Rashid, Tattersall, Willey.