Yorkshire 328-7 Northamptonshire: Ballance hits ton to lift England prospects


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The Independent Online

Peter Moores may not remember, and Gary Ballance will possibly hope that he doesn’t, but it was against Lancashire at Headingley in 2011, when England’s new head coach was guiding the Red Rose county towards a first outright County Championship for 77 years, that the Yorkshire left-hander bagged what so far is his only pair.

Ballance’s career, it is fair to say, has kicked on a bit from there, particularly last season, when his 1,363 first-class runs for Yorkshire included six centuries, five of them in the Championship. They earned him a place on the England tour to Australia, where he made his debut in the final Ashes Test in Sydney in circumstances that were difficult, to say the least.

As such, he is the man in possession of the England No 5 slot. The competition to impress Moores and the national selector James Whitaker over the next few weeks will be fierce, with Eoin Morgan and James Taylor, among others, also eyeing up the gaps in the middle order.  Ballance, though, is giving them something to measure up to.

Yesterday, back at Headingley, he made his second century of the season and the 20th of his career, in only 71 first-class matches, as Yorkshire recovered from a tricky start after deciding to bat first in gloomy, damp conditions.

He looked in exceptionally good touch, not obviously troubled at any stage either against the seamers or against James Middlebrook, the off-spinner, who was given an extended opportunity to test Ballance during the afternoon but made little impression.

Ballance added 156 for the fourth wicket with Alex Lees, the 21-year-old opener who made an impressive breakthrough last season.

Lees fell for 90, leg before to Andrew Hall’s medium pace, but was not nearly as fluent as his partner and should have been out on 50, when he was missed at first slip, and on 51, when he should have been stumped off Middlebrook.

Joe Root is pencilled in for a return to action with Yorkshire Seconds this week.