Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon is concerned it could prove a “long winter” for Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance if he is overlooked for England’s final Ashes warm-up game next week.
Ballance was left out of the squad for the penultimate warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI, which started in Adelaide today, with Dawid Malan preferred in the No 5 slot.
Both Ballance and his Middlesex rival made half-centuries in England’s drawn Tour opener against a WACA XI in Perth – but it was Malan who received the nod for the latest game, a four-day day-night fixture at the Adelaide Oval.
It leaves Ballance, recalled by England for the Ashes tour after suffering a broken left index finger in the second Test against South Africa at Trent Bridge in July, with just one more chance to impress selectors ahead of the first Test in Brisbane, which starts on November 23.
And Moxon is anxious that the 27-year-old, the county’s one shining light with the bat in the County Championship last season – scoring 951 runs at 67.93 – gets his chance in the final warm-up match, which starts in Townsville next Wednesday.
On Ballance, who averages 37 from 23 Tests, Moxon told The Yorkshire Post: “If he is not playing in the final warm-up game, it could be a long winter for him. He is going to have to rely on poor form or injury, then.
“It would be very disappointing and frustrating for him if he only got that one innings to prove himself. We will see, the next few weeks will tell us a lot in terms of where he fits into it all.
“I think Gary went out there in a very good frame of mind and very clear in how he wanted to go about his battling. I just hope he gets an opportunity in that final warm-up game to have another innings.”
Prior to his injury with England earlier this summer, Ballance made scores of 20, 34, 27 and four in two Tests against South Africa – although the decision to bat him at No 3 was widely criticised by many, with most observers believing that the Zimbabwe-born player is much better suited to the No 5 spot.
But it is Malan who has been given another chance to shine for England this week and rubber-stamp his Test credentials in the day-night game.
The latest match will see a pink ball used – in preparation for the first-ever day-night Ashes Test, in Adelaide, which has already hosted two very popular pink-ball Tests – between December 2-6.
Commitments with England Lions in the summer meant that Ballance, who is colour blind, missed the historic first day/night County Championship match that was staged at Headingley at the end of June, but he insists that he has no issues seeing the new pink ball used for such games.
Writting on his blog on Yorkshire’s official website, he said: “Unfortunately, I have not made the XI for this week’s match, so I will use the time to train hard in the nets and make sure I am ready for my next opportunity, which will hopefully be next week.
“It just so happens that I seem to keep missing the pink ball.
“During the summer, I left Yorkshire’s County Championship game against Surrey to go and play for the Lions before I had a chance to bat.
“But, despite the talk about my colour blindness, I can assure you I will be absolutely fine with it.”
Ballance is one of three White Rose players currently with England in Australia alongside captain Joe Root and wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow.
But Liam Plunkett’s hopes of adding to the Yorkshire contingent have been dashed with uncapped Surrey all-rounder Tom Curran chosen to replace injured paceman Steven Finn.
Finn, himself a late replacement for the absent Ben Stokes, has been diagnosed with torn cartilage in his left knee and will head back to England for a possible operation.
Curran, 22, is next in line and the England and Wales Cricket Board have announced he will fly to Australia today.
Curran has long been considered a rising star of the county game and made his first steps into international cricket this summer, appearing in three T20s and a one-day international against the West Indies.
He took 24 wickets in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship at 34.66 as well as averaging a handy 27.44 with the bat.
Plunkett, a mainstay of the white ball set-up, but not seen in the Test arena since winning the last of his 13 caps in 2014, and Mark Wood, set to travel Down Under with the Lions as he battles back from a heel injury, were other viable options.
As for Finn, though, a brief England and Wales Cricket Board statement read: “(He) will miss the remainder of (the) tour of Australia after scans revealed that he has a torn left knee cartilage.
“The Middlesex seamer sustained the injury during practice last week in Perth and will now return to the UK in the next 48 hours where he will meet a knee specialist to ascertain whether he will have an operation. England will announce his replacement for the rest of the tour in due course.”
Finn, who was on his third Ashes tour, was dropped midway through England’s famous 2010-11 series victory, then badly out of form, and never picked four years ago.