Ballance century offers England an immediate reminder
MCC 0 for 0 trail Yorkshire 275 (Ballance 105, Rhodes 95, Tredwell 3-53) by 275 runs
Gary Ballance has attracted little attention since he was dropped by England midway through last summer's Ashes series, but he made an immediate statement in the traditional curtain-raiser to the English county season with a century against MCC in Abu Dhabi.
Yorkshire, who will be chasing a hat-trick of Championship titles when the season gets underway on April 10, needed Ballance to take the strain on a day when only four players reached double figures in their opening-day score of 275.
They will have been equally heartened by the batting of Will Rhodes, a 21-year-old allrounder who made his debut in the corresponding fixture last year. Rhodes made 95, sharing a sixth-wicket stand of 125 in 46 overs with Ballance to rouse Yorkshire from 88 for 5 and missing out on a maiden first-class century when he was last out, caught at the wicket off Warwickshire's Rikki Clarke.
It was Kent's seasoned offspinner James Tredwell who did most to undermine Yorkshire, counting Andrew Gale, Jack Leaning and Tim Bresnan among his victims in a five-over burst on his way to figures of 3 for 53. Ballance went on to hit 13 fours in his 105 before he fell lbw to Samit Patel.
Ballance's back-foot technique came under examination when he lost his place after the second Test at Lord's, having made only one half-century in his last 10 innings against West Indies, New Zealand and Australia. He found consolation in helping Yorkshire to the Championship, even if he did make a pair at Lord's when they confirmed themselves as champions against Middlesex at Lord's.
He has resisted suggestions that he needs to dismantle a batting method that despite recent failures has still brought him an average of 47.76 in 15 Tests and his chances of a recall in Tests this summer cannot be discounted with England's top three still an area of concern.
But to some extent he has become England's forgotten man as they have won a Test series 2-1 in South Africa before attention has turned to World Twenty20 in India.
Ian Bell replaced him at No 3 during the Ashes series and began with two half-centuries against Australia on his home ground at Edgbaston, but a lean run followed and he was omitted from the Test series in South Africa, accepting the Warwickshire captaincy as doubts surfaced about his England career with his 34th birthday approaching.
Nick Compton took up the job in South Africa and bedded in with 85 in the first Test in Durban, but it was to prove his only half-century in four Tests, leaving the No 3 position still up for grabs.