England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's July 15, 2014

Ballance enjoying the challenge of No. 3


Jonathan Trott was always going to be a tough man to replace at No. 3, but the early signs are that in Gary Ballance England have someone with the all-round game to take hold of the position.

Since assuming the role in the first Test against Sri Lanka he has made 23, 104 not out, 74, 0 and 71 - his hundred, in his previous outing at Lord's, was England's first from No. 3 since Trott made 121 against New Zealand, at Wellington, in March 2013.

The elevation up the order to a position Ballance had barely occupied in his professional career - and which had also been filled by Joe Root and Ian Bell after Trott left Australia - has meant the attacking batting he has come renowned for on the domestic circuit has largely been locked away, although he hinted at his potential when he charged towards three figures last month and reached the landmark with a six.

However, he is more than happy to take on a more cautious role and has provided a stabilising effect on the top order to help counter, somewhat, the poor form of Alastair Cook. The latest he has come to the crease so far this season is in the 19th over.

"I am happy to play the patience game, to bat for time and bat for as long as possible," he said. "It would have been nice to have kicked on in those last few games but that's how it goes and hopefully I can build on that. If you bowl straight or with tight lines then it is hard to score so you've got to be patient."

After a hostile debut against Mitchell Johnson in Sydney, Ballance is now starting to feel at home at international level. "I think so, I feel like I have brought some good form in to it, like I said, a few decent scores, it would be nice to kick on and get a really big score and a match-winning one to try to get us a win for England and get us going for the summer."

While batting remains the reason Ballance has been selected he showed unexpected promise with the lesser known skill of legspin, albeit during a light-hearted finish to the Trent Bridge Test when he sent down the penultimate over of the match. He had previously bowled 24 wicketless overs in first-class cricket but he may now put in some extra work in the nets.

"To be honest I was quite nervous before I bowled, I wasn't really expecting it," he said. "I was just glad the first one landed and then after that I had a little bit of confidence and I bowled six balls, probably a bit slow, but I might get a few more overs in the nets and we'll see where we go from there.

"It is quite tough as a part time wrist spinner, it is difficult and although I bowled a lot in the nets a Yorkshire I never had the chance to bowl in a game.

"Every captain does want that that extra option and maybe as a wrist spinner there might be an opportunity on a flat wicket where the game is going nowhere. Maybe I need to work on it a bit harder, but at the moment it is about concentrating on the batting and getting big scores."

Anyone who is able to offer Cook another viable option to give his quick bowlers a break should be encouraged to take his chance seriously.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • raj on July 19, 2014, 1:15 GMT

    Balance seems like the type of player who will score tons of runs against mediocre bowling attacks - India is one of those attacks! Balance will however struggle against the likes of Australia (which he has done) and SA. But good luck to the young man - If he played FC cricket as a batsman when 16yrs of age then he must be pretty good.

  • Tom on July 16, 2014, 22:45 GMT

    Ballance does not seem to impress many people on first viewing. I don't think he cares. He is gritty and has an appetite for runs. I think he could go on to score a lot of them.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    ALways gets lbw ..........Very poor on technique & his limited strokes too.

  • Steve on July 16, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    Have to admit, all the complaining about slow, low pitches has made me laugh this summer, as truth is as much as they have hurt our quicks, they have allowed both Robson and Ballance to succeed! Robson is too still and stiff at the crease and will be bounced out on lively tracks, Ballance could make it at 5, but has not got the right technique to play the new ball on pitches with pace and carry. Have people seen some of the tangles he gets in to a pitched up ball that does a bit? All summer I have feared these two nailing down their batting positions only to be horribly exposed under the real challenges that await, wasting a season of rebuilding. The technical problems I have mentioned are hard to solve due to the major, fundamental changes required...

  • James on July 16, 2014, 8:24 GMT

    Has very slow reaction times. Will always be found out against the very best bowlers.

  • Rahul on July 16, 2014, 7:14 GMT

    Robson and Ballance's real challenge will come against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on home and away tours and against Sub continent teams when England travels there. Till that time they are on the right track scoring invaluable international runs against modest attacks on home pitches.

  • Khehla on July 16, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    The surfaces with which he has played so far and the bowling attacks haven't been the most testing. That said, he has scored runs and good on him for that. But his technique isn't watertight as one would like it to be in tougher conditions and against better bowlers he could struggle. Then again, that's the same for just about all players

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2014, 6:50 GMT

    Best of luck to Ballance the leggie. And, Anderson the batsman; the MOM deserving batsman among the 22 players on show at Nottingham (at least according to the MOM judges).

    That one over of leg spin from Ballance was very impressive. He really got Bhuvi onto knots. By the way, Bhuvi has a very good batting record in India's domestic cricket.

  • James on July 16, 2014, 3:57 GMT

    Sri Lanka and India on flat pitches is hardly impressive.

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2014, 3:56 GMT

    Looks like a great player to me. For some reason he reminds me of David Boon. I hope England don't keep messing him about, but just let him be himself and bat there at three. None of this bouncing him up and down the order or trying to turn him into a batting all rounder.

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