YORKSHIRE’S Gary Ballance is determined to find a “big score” to help England end their nine-match winless streak sooner rather than later this summer.
England take on India in the second Test of a five-match series at Lord’s today having been held to a draw at Trent Bridge on Sunday.
The emerging No 3 has so far contributed two half-centuries as well as his first hundred, in only four Tests – he made his debut in the final Test of the abysmal Ashes tour in Australia during a forgettable winter.
But after a patchy team performance in the largely unrewarding first Test draw at Trent Bridge, Ballance knows they will have to improve if they are to have any hope of ending their nine-match run without a victory under out-of-form captain Alastair Cook.
The durability of England’s hard-worked pace attack, after more than 200 overs to no avail in the opening stalemate, is hardly in Ballance’s remit.
But he is well-placed to provide an insight into Cook’s ongoing lack of runs and England’s continued susceptibility to collapse.
The loss of six wickets for 68 at Trent Bridge, and even five for 18 against Sri Lanka in Leeds beforehand highlighted the problem, as did several innings wrecked by Mitchell Johnson in last winter’s Ashes whitewash.
Ballance acknowledges nonetheless England must address this and aims to play a significant role over the remaining four games in the series.
“I feel like I have brought some good form in, and a few decent scores,” said Ballance.
“It would be nice to kick on and get a really big score, a match-winning one to try to get us a win for England and get us going for the summer.
“Let’s just hope that over the next few games we can put in a good team batting performance which will get us a big score and really put pressure on India.”
While making a bigger impact himself, Ballance is confident Cook will soon be back to his prolific best.
“Every cricketer has been through a bad patch. You can’t hide away; you’ve got to be positive,” added Ballance.
“I thought he captained brilliantly in that last game, and nearly got a win.
“Some take longer than others ... there are plenty of coaches and other players who will support you.
“Cooky is very positive and upbeat, and you saw how he is enjoying his cricket when he had a bowl at Trent Bridge.
“I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he goes out there and gets that big score.”
Off the pitch, it was determined yesterday that Ballance was not breaking team rules when he was pictured shirtless in a Nottingham bar following the drawn Test against India.
Ballance went out following the end of the series opener on Sunday night, along with several team-mates, and was snapped by members of the public enjoying himself in the early hours.
Despite being in the middle of back-to-back Tests, England coach Peter Moores gave his squad permission to go out ahead of a rest day on Monday.
But the pictures are clearly ones the England and Wales Cricket Board would not welcome as a regular occurrence and Moores has vowed to talk to the squad about his expectations for their public appearances.
Moores said: “I am aware that some of the England players were caught on camera relaxing after the conclusion of the recent Trent Bridge Test match.
“As the players had been released at the end of the first Test match and were not due to meet up to begin preparations for the second Test until Monday evening, and there were no suggestions of impropriety, there is no need for any disciplinary action.
“I will however be reminding all players of their responsibilities to uphold the best possible image for England cricket.”
India’s bowling coach Joe Dawes, meanwhile, has called on pace bowler Ishant Sharma to step forward and become the leader of the team’s attack.
The Australian, appointed by India in February 2012 under head coach Duncan Fletcher, was impressed with his bowlers’ efforts at Trent Bridge, in particular Sharma.
“Ishant, has been around for a long time, played 55 Test matches,” said Dawes. “He needs to step up and assume the leadership of this attack.
“You’ve got a bloke who’s 25-years-old and played 55 Test matches.
“He has had a pretty rough time so far – came in as a superstar, got injured, went in and out, had various levels of success – and has had some incredible highs and lows.
“We’ve got high expectations for him and does he always meet them? No. But that has never been for the lack of trying.”
Brian Havill is the England and Wales Cricket Board’s new acting chief executive, replacing the retiring David Collier.
The ECB announced last weekend that Collier is to retire, and yesterday confirmed Havill – currently also the governing body’s finance director and company secretary – will fulfil the chief executive’s role.
Collier, 59, was scheduled to leave at the end of the current season after a decade in his position.