Yorkshire’s loss may be England’s gain as Gary Ballance is called on to prove himself

Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
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YORKSHIRE will lose their captain and runaway leading run-scorer Gary Ballance midway through their County Championship match against Surrey at Headingley.

The batsman has been withdrawn from the second half of the day/night fixture to lead England Lions against South Africa.

Ballance will play the first two days of the pink-ball match, on Monday and Tuesday, before travelling to Worcester to prepare for the three-day Lions contest that starts on Thursday.

Tim Bresnan will take over as captain when Ballance departs, with 18-year-old batsman Harry Brook perhaps the likeliest candidate to replace him as a fully participating substitute.

England want to test Ballance against the South African pace bowlers before picking their side for the first Test against the Proteas at Lord’s on Thursday week.

The 27-year-old was given a tough working over by the Australian and New Zealand quicks in 2015 before losing his international place last autumn.

Gary Ballance reacts after his dismissal by Bangladesh's Mehedi Hasan Miraz during the second Test match in Dhaka last October. Picture: AP/A.M. Ahad.

Gary Ballance reacts after his dismissal by Bangladesh's Mehedi Hasan Miraz during the second Test match in Dhaka last October. Picture: AP/A.M. Ahad.

However, Ballance has encountered plenty of pace bowlers in the Championship this year – he prospered against England and Middlesex quick Steven Finn at Lord’s last week – and his call-up deprives Yorkshire of the leading English batsman in this season’s tournament.

The left-hander has hit 815 runs in seven games at an average of 101, almost 400 runs more than Yorkshire’s next-highest run-scorer, Peter Handscomb.

Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, said: “It’s arguable whether Gary should have to prove himself in the Lions’ game.

“However, we wish him well, and hopefully he will resume his Test career at Lord’s a week on Thursday.”

It’s arguable whether Gary should have to prove himself in the Lions’ game. However, we wish him well.

Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.

Ballance’s departure in mid-match is offset by the availability of England Test captain Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who hit 213 and 198 respectively in the corresponding game last year, which Yorkshire won by an innings.

England players have been made available for this round of pink-ball Championship games ahead of the first pink-ball Test in this country against West Indies at Edgbaston in August.

Ballance is one of eight members of the 12-man Lions squad who will be available to their counties for the opening two days of next week’s day/night fixtures, with clubs allowed substitutes for days three and four.

However, all four pace bowlers selected by the Lions have been rested for the Championship (George Garton, Tom Helm, Saqib Mahmood and Jamie Overton), while no players from Surrey or Nottinghamshire have been considered as the final day of the Lions’ match clashes with their Royal London Cup final at Lord’s next Saturday.

In an England and Wales Cricket Board statement, James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “Gary Ballance has had an excellent start to the season with Yorkshire, impressing with both his batting and his captaincy, and we wanted to give him this opportunity to lead the Lions against international opposition.

“Similarly for Sam Billings, it is a chance for him to show what he can do both as a batsman and a wicketkeeper in a first-class fixture for the Lions after several months playing one-day and T20 cricket for England and in the IPL.

“Sam Robson has earned his recall with his consistent run-scoring for Middlesex, Tom Westley and Liam Livingstone both made a positive impression for the Lions in Sri Lanka last winter, and this is a great opportunity to see Mason Crane bowling with a red ball against international opposition, after such an encouraging start with the white ball this week.

“Mason’s inclusion also means he will be able to work for the first time with Saqlain Mushtaq, who will be spending more time with the Lions next week after working with Jack Leach and Dom Bess in Canterbury, as part of his role as a spin consultant with the ECB.”

Ballance’s involvement in the Surrey match had already been the subject of interest as he is colour blind and had previously struggled to see the pink ball.

However, the pink balls this season have a darker seam, which makes them easier for him to distinguish.

Speaking after Yorkshire’s match against Middlesex last week, Ballance said: “I’ve been practising with the new pink ball and I’ll be fine to play against Surrey. The ball is a lot easier to see now, and the darker seam helps me massively.”

Lions squad: Ballance (captain), Jennings, Robson, Westley, Livingstone, Clarke, Billings, J. Overton, Helm, Garton, Mahmood, Crane.