Surrey v Yorkshire, The Oval, 4th day September 27, 2013

Ballance shows up Bairstow shortcomings


Yorkshire 434 (Ballance 148, Jaques 88, Ansari 4-70) and 265 for 6 (Ballance 108*, Williamson 60) drew with Surrey 634 for 5 (Sibley 242, Amla 151, Burns 82, Solanki 51)

If this match is seen as a shootout for the England No. 6 slot in Brisbane, Gary Ballance can begin whitening his pads for the Gabba after becoming the 13th Yorkshire player to score two centuries in a match.

It was his second composed innings of the game, taking him past 1200 Championship runs for the season, and saved his side from defeat on the final afternoon at The Oval. His unbeaten 108 rescued Yorkshire from a slippery situation and extended their unbeaten away record in the Championship to 21 matches.

Ballance could not have delivered a better four days following his England call-up and there could not have been a greater juxtaposition between him and Jonny Bairstow, an incumbent at No. 6 during the Ashes. There was an air of sureness about Ballance's batting that his colleagues lacked in falling into the end-of-season, mind-wandering trap. Without Ballance, Yorkshire would have suffered a defeat that would have soured an excellent campaign that defied many expectations.

His hundred in 158 balls was chanceless and he dealt with the increasing spin threat of Zafar Ansari and especially Gareth Batty with positivity: defending out in front of the footholes outside his off stump and attacking with quick sorties down the pitch or a scythe of the blade square of the wicket.

Far from bowing under the weight of expectation at being a Test batsman in waiting, Ballance thrived on being that bit closer to the international stage.

"I'm not really sure about Brisbane," Ballance said. "I haven't really thought about it. I just went to try and build an innings and luckily it came off twice. It's a great feeling and it was nice to finish the season well. One thousand runs was a personal target for me so to have achieved that for the first time is very satisfying.

"It was nice to get the call and it's been a nice week. I'm glad this game has gone well for me. I was pretty confident and it was a good wicket to bat on, there was a bit of turn but we got through."

The calm poise Ballance showed was in contrast to an all-too-familiar skittish innings from his team-mate Bairstow, which had another very disappointing ending to a straight delivery.

Bairstow clearly has a lack of confidence in his defensive technique. While handsome clips off his pads and photogenic cover drives raced away off the middle of the bat, there remained a sense that he was never in full control. After two years of international cricket he is yet to shrug off the whippersnapper tag.

He struck Tom Jewell for four fours in succession but six overs later failed to deal with an ordinary delivery from Tim Linley, slightly angled in. Bairstow got too far towards the off side and fell lbw for a second disappointing return in the match. Despite assurances to the contrary, he still appeared to be shaking off the blow he suffered in slipping on the third evening.

A return of 955 first-class runs at 38.20 would not have been the year Bairstow was hoping for. His performances in the Test matches this summer, coupled with Ballance's superb tally of 1363 runs at 64.90, may well sway the England selectors. Since his career has come into sharper focus, Bairstow has mixed attractive strokes with loose dismissals. Here he might have sensed the pressure of Ballance's innings and the situation of the game, which gave few excuses for a poor return.

Even after four days, batsmen could trust the surface and strokemaking was straightforward. But Yorkshire coughed up enough wickets to take the game into the last hour. Adam Lyth and Alex Lees both edged balls sent across them by Linley and Phil Jaques dragged on trying to drive a ball from a poor position.

Kane Williamson is a man for a crisis and nudged and tucked his way to a much-needed fifty. But when he was caught off bat and pad, Gareth Batty's demeanour hardened and he began to find turn and bounce to justify three men around the bat. With some more luck, Batty could well have bowled Surrey to victory.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Samuel on September 29, 2013, 12:10 GMT

    @Cyril - would personally like to see Stokes, but certainly wouldn't be unhappy with Ballance getting a debut. Just seems able to adapt to any given situation whilst always playing positively - reminds me very much of Michael Hussey, without wishing to heap too much pressure on the lad! If he ends up half as good a player he'll be a fine one for both England and Yorkshire.

  • Dummy4 on September 29, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    To Caleb McCarthy: how can he possibly deserve the number 6 spot when he isn't even English? he should instead be batting for Zimbabwe. Don't you want to see strong teams around the world? for Christ Sakes, look at the bigger picture.

    Anyhow, I hope the Aussie's christen Balance "number 10". seeing as he is set to become the 10th South(ern) African to play for England at International level since 2004. England should pick

  • Android on September 28, 2013, 22:51 GMT

    I know this article is about Gary Ballance, and he has definitely proved that he is the one for the England number 6 spot! But I would also like to point out the great move by Yorkshire management to sign Kane Williamson, he looks like a great talent and has already contributed a lot to the team. But congratulations to Ballance, he deserves that spot in the first test.

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    Yes Balance the former Zimbabwean U19 player is a class act but Bairstow is very talented as well.

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2013, 20:06 GMT

    Bairstow looks like he has been worked out to an extent..although he often contributes to his own dismissals. But to put Ballance straight into a tough away Ashes series would play into the Aussies hands.

  • John on September 28, 2013, 19:45 GMT

    Twin hundreds from Ballance after being included in the Ashes squad. What a way to make a statement!!!

  • Dummy4 on September 28, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Yes Balance the former Zimbabwean U19 player is a class act but Bairstow is very talented as well.

  • Ben on September 28, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    How the hell England could have preferred Jonny Bairstow to Nick Compton this last summer I will never know. Then again, I will never know how Geoff Miller, who was an extremely ordinary Test cricketer himself, ever became chairman of selectors.

  • Cyril on September 28, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    Ballance seems to be able to play shots all round the wicket and has a very solid defence. Too many of his rivals have technical weaknesses and can be tied down bowling to plans because they cannot score so readily. He also has the rare ability to change the tempo of his innings without being rash.

    I've seen plenty of big hundreds at The Oval this year, but few made me think "this boy is good." Gary Ballance is certainly very good and I can't see anyone but him batting at 6 in Brisbane. He's light years ahead of Bairstow, Stokes and Carberry.

  • Michael on September 27, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    When the Ashes squad was announced I posted that I really did not know Balance at all. Now I do! He better make runs down under after that. Pity that Sy waited this long to post 634. More like it, Surrey! too bad it's the end of the season now. I was interested to hear how Sibley was looking forward to batting with Amla. I can imagine it!

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