ODI series: Gary Ballance confident he can cope with returning Mitchell Johnson after insisting he's faced quicker bowlers
Ballance is looking to fight fire with fire after hitting half-centuries in his last two innings
Thursday 16 January 2014
England batsman Gary Ballance is confident he can handle Mitchell Johnson when the Ashes man of the series returns for the second one-day international in Brisbane.
Ballance was given a baptism of fire when he made his Test debut in the final Ashes Test against a rampant Johnson earlier this month.
The Australia left-armer finished the series with 37 wickets and was promptly handed a 10-day break to refresh himself for the end of England's troubled tour.
Johnson - who has shaved off his handlebar moustache during his time away - has vowed to resume his short-pitched assault at the Gabba on Friday.
But after seeing first hand what Johnson is capable of, Ballance - who has hit half-centuries in his past two innings - not only believes he can fight fire with fire, but indicated he has faced quicker bowlers in county cricket.
"He bowls at a decent pace but I felt like I could handle it all right," he said.
Asked if he was the quickest bowler he had faced, the left-hander added: "There are a few quick bowlers around; (Tymal) Mills from Essex is quick.
"He's got good pace. We are going to work on it (handling Johnson's speed)."
While Johnson's threat is obvious, Ballance is wary of worrying too much about one man, after Australia's seam attack proved their quality at the MCG.
Clint McKay is Australia's reigning ODI player of the year while Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson are not far behind Johnson on the speed gun.
"They have a good bowling attack and we have to be ready to face all of them," Ballance said.
"He's had a good Test series but we are ready to face him and the rest of their bowlers."
While Ballance knows what to expects from Johnson, England's middle order will front him for the first time this winter.
Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler - the key to England's game-plan to accelerate in the late overs - were all not involved in the Ashes.
Ballance is confident they will be able to handle anything Johnson, or Australia's attack, muster on a Gabba pitch suited to the quicks.
"I think most of the guys have faced him, back home in the one-day series then in the Test series," he said.
"Everyone will expect what's coming."
Ballance is one of England's form batsmen after he followed his 79 in the series opener in Melbourne with another half-century in the morale-booting 172-run win over a Prime Minister's XI on Tuesday.
The left-hander is not yet a permanent fixture in England's line-up, but he is feeling more comfortable.
"Yeah, I feel good," he said. "I've spent a bit of time in the middle, got a decent score in the first game then to get another fifty was good.
"I've got a bit of confidence and now need to take that into the next game.
"I feel a bit more comfortable. It helps getting a few decent scores. There are a lot of good players around so have to keep working hard and try to make that place my own."
With England team director Andy Flower preparing to begin a "new era" following the Ashes whitewash, positions may become open for the likes of Ballance - the leading run-scorer in the LV= County Championship first division last season - to push their claims.
The Yorkshire batsman is aware of the implications of a good run before heading home at the end of this ODI series.
"Definitely (this is a big series)," he said. "I've had my first few games now and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
"I'm trying to take each game at a time, get myself in and try to get runs."
Victory against the PM's XI in Canberra ended a two-month winless stretch since arriving Down Under, although success over Australia remains on the to-do list.
Ballance hopes the confidence gained in Australia's capital can help turn fortunes around, admitting England can hardly afford to slip 2-0 behind in a five-game series.
"It's nice to get a win after a few losses, especially the first ODI," he said.
"It's very important to get a win. Going down 1-0 wasn't what we wanted. We've got to come back strong tomorrow."
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