Ballance rewarded with T20 call-up

GARY BALLANCE will play the first half of Yorkshire’s County Championship match against Surrey before leaving for London in the hope of making his England debut.
Gary BallanceGary Ballance
Gary Ballance

Ballance has been named in a 14-man squad for a two-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand at The Oval next Tuesday and Thursday.

Surrey’s Kevin Pietersen is also in the squad but will only play the second of those games, leaving him clear for all four days of the Championship fixture.

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Ballance – wanted by England for practice sessions ahead of Tuesday’s contest – will be replaced mid-match at Headingley by Jack Leaning, a 19-year-old right-hander who has played one limited-overs game for the county but who has yet to make his first-class debut.

Ballance’s call-up rewards some fine performances at county level and comes after England took the decision to rest their entire Ashes squad with the exception of Pietersen, who is building up match fitness following a knee injury.

Ballance, 23, has blossomed at England Lions level and he netted with England prior to last month’s second Test at Headingley.

The Zimbabwe-born left-hander is one of two uncapped players in the squad along with Boyd Rankin, the 28-year-old Warwickshire pace bowler who has played 52 times for Ireland.

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Ben Stokes, the Durham all-rounder sent home from last winter’s Lions’ tour to Australia due to drinking and late nights, has been recalled after England decided he has learned his lesson.

Ballance, who has recovered from a virus that kept him out of last week’s Championship match against Middlesex at Lord’s, said his call-up came as a surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity. It will be a thrill to represent England at this level and it’s something I’ve been working on for a while now.

“When you play for your country it is special. It is a great set-up and the coaching and management make you feel welcome. I’m really excited about next week.”

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The absence of Ballance’s county colleague Jonny Bairstow from the Twenty20 squad is a clear indication that he will be involved in the Ashes campaign.

Eoin Morgan will captain the Twenty20 side as England’s official Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad has also been rested for the Tests.

National selector Geoff Miller commented: “We have selected a squad with plenty of T20 experience as well as young players new to the international game.

“With an intense period of cricket coming up we are conscious that we need to manage the workloads of our players throughout the summer and this NatWest series gives an opportunity for players who have performed well in domestic cricket and on the England Performance Programme and with the Lions to step up and test themselves in an international environment.

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“New Zealand are a talented limited overs side and with a World T20 competition less than a year away this series gives us a chance to look at a number of different options.”

England’s T20 squad: E Morgan (Middx, captain), G Ballance (Yorkshire), R Bopara (Essex), D Briggs (Hants), J Buttler (Somerset), J Dernbach (Surrey), A Hales (Notts), M Lumb (Notts), K Pietersen (Surrey), B Rankin (Warwicks), B Stokes (Durham), J Tredwell (Kent), C Woakes (Warwicks), L Wright (Sussex).