Gary Ballance hits 95 runs off 25 balls as he makes Yorkshire CCC return in friendly against Northumberland

Yorkshire batter Gary Ballance blasted 95 from just 25 balls as he returned to senior action in a friendly against Northumberland following his involvement in the Azeem Rafiq racism case.

The 32-year-old plundered 11 sixes and six fours at South Northumberland Cricket Club before being caught at long-on as his side set the hosts a forbidding 291 to win a match reduced to just 23 overs a side following persistent rain in the north-east.

Ballance’s explosive 30-minute innings announced his return to the first XI following a series of appearances for the seconds after he took time away from the game to prioritise his mental health.

The Zimbabwe-born player admitted using racist language towards ex-Yorkshire team-mate Rafiq, following Rafiq’s explosive claims over the discrimination he had faced during his time with the club.

The scandal prompted a major overhaul of Yorkshire’s structure and governance after they had initially been stripped of the right to host international matches at their Headingley home under sanctions imposed by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

In addition to Ballance’s eye-catching contribution, Will Fraine’s 80 and 51 from fellow opener Harry Duke helped the visitors post a formidable total of 290 for five.

Yorkshire assistant coach Ali Maiden said: “That was a good performance and a very useful workout. It was nice to see Gary strike the ball like that.

“He’s a fine player in all formats, but particularly people would recognise his batting in longer format cricket and how he occupies the crease.

GARY BALLANCE: Featured in a first-team friendly for Yorkshire CCC against Northumberland on Sunday. Picture: Getty Images.

“So to go out there and play with such freedom, to swing the bat like he did, he struck the ball cleaner than anyone I’ve seen all year in any format.

“He was fantastic to watch, and I think he enjoyed himself. Frainey played very well as well, as did Dukey. Frainey struck the ball nicely.

“To have a successful opening partnership is very important in any format. They did well last year, and they have the chance to continue that.”

Yorkshire host Northamptonshire in the Royal London Cup on Tuesday.