GARY BALLANCE flew to Australia as the least heralded of the four Yorkshire players in the England party.
The 24-year-old was the “baby” of a quartet headed by Tim Bresnan, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
But after scoring his maiden half-century for England on Sunday, Ballance could yet return home as the Yorkshireman deemed to have the brightest international future.
As the stars of his county colleagues have diminished slightly (but by no means petered out), Ballance’s has begun to twinkle with increasing luminosity.
This will come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his county career.
Indeed, the Yorkshire cognoscenti have long thought Ballance might go on to enjoy the most successful career of Yorkshire’s current international cricketers.
“That Ballance, he’ll turn out to be best of them, you mark my words,” the great Dickie Bird once told me.
And there are many who would agree with the former umpire’s contention.
Only time will tell, but Ballance’s 79 in the first one-day international in Melbourne on Sunday was a welcome highlight of a six-wicket defeat.
It was not the left-hander’s most fluent contribution but, in the context of a calamitous tour and a young man trying to nail down his place, it was undoubtedly an eye-catching one.
On his only previous ODI appearance, against Ireland last September, Ballance had perished for a second-ball duck.
He could hardly afford another failure this time and he rose to the challenge in commendable style.
Neat off-side deflections intertwined with muscular leg-side thumps as Ballance top-scored in a 96-ball innings that included six fours.
The Zimbabwe-born player showed fighting spirit after England slipped to 62-3, with captain Alastair Cook, Root and Ian Bell early casualties, and he added 83 for the fourth-wicket with Eoin Morgan at a little under six runs an over.
In the interests of balance (no pun intended), we should mention that our hero dropped Aaron Finch at mid-off off Chris Jordan when he had scored only eight of his 121 in Australia’s reply before belatedly atoning by holding Finch at third man off Ben Stokes.
But as anyone who has watched Ballance in Yorkshire colours could testify, he has a terrific pair of hands and there is a good chance that the Finch drop could turn out to be a collector’s item.
Speaking after England’s sixth successive international defeat on this tour with seven games still to play (13-0 anyone?), Cook made particular mention of Ballance’s temperament.
“I thought the way he played and the composure he showed was good,” said Cook.
“He hung in there and took it deep. He played well.”
For it is Ballance’s temperament, as much as his talent, that have impressed the likes of Dickie Bird. Ballance is solid, hard-working and consistent – qualities that England need in abundance.
When one sees Ballance walk out to bat, even when the scoreboard reads 17-4 as it did on his Test debut at Sydney earlier this month, one feels somehow reassured.
At Yorkshire, he has often proved himself a man for a crisis as well as someone with the ability to cut loose in calmer waters, and he does not try to do anything he cannot but plays within his few limitations.
Slowly but surely, Ballance has been going about his business in understated fashion for several seasons now at Headingley, where he has prospered under the tutelage of director of cricket Martyn Moxon and first-team coach Jason Gillespie.
While the likes of Bresnan, Root and Bairstow have been hogging the headlines, and deservedly so, Ballance has been accumulating in all forms of the game, culminating in a return last summer of 1,363 in first-class cricket at 64.90.
He ended that summer with a bang, scoring twin centuries in the final match against Surrey at The Oval to celebrate his call-up for the Ashes squad.
Now, if he can maintain his form for the rest of the trip, the man who set out for Australia as the least trumpeted of the four Yorkshiremen could yet turn out to be the one most widely acclaimed come the end of the tour.
Rhodes and Tattersall lead England
IF the old saying that a strong Yorkshire means a strong England still holds true, then England can look forward to a successful showing at the Under-19 World Cup in the UAE next month.
Will Rhodes, an 18-year-old all-rounder, and Jonathan Tattersall, a 19-year-old batsman, have been named captain and vice-captain respectively, while the 15-man squad includes Yorkshire pace bowlers Josh Shaw, 18, and Matthew Fisher, 16.
England squad: Will Rhodes, Ed Barnard, Joe Clark, Ben Duckett, Harry Finch, Matthew Fisher, Miles Hammond, Ryan Higgins, Robert Jones, Robert Sayer, Josh Shaw, Dominic Sibley, Jonathan Tattersall, Jack Winslade, Luke Wood.