Ballance to captain England Lions in tour game

Gary Ballance sweeps during his century PA Photos

Gary Ballance's prospects of a Test recall at Lord's next month have been given a boost by his appointment as England Lions captain for their three-day tour match against South Africa at Worcester.

Ballance, who is currently averaging more than 100 in the Specsavers County Championship in his first season as Yorkshire captain, is joined by three players from the England squad for this week's T20 series against South Africa - Sam Billings, Liam Livingstone and Mason Crane.

Billings will take the gloves, with Worcestershire's Joe Clarke included in a Lions squad for the first time this summer after scoring a century in each innings of their Championship victory over Kent this week.

Sam Robson, the Middlesex opener, is back in a Lions squad for the first time since the tour of South Africa in 2014-15, while Essex batsman Tom Westley is also included after impressing in the two four-day matches against Sri Lanka A in the winter.

Robson will open alongside Keaton Jennings, who is currently on Lions duty against South Africa A in Canterbury, as are the two fast bowlers, Somerset's Jamie Overton and Tom Helm of Middlesex.

George Garton, the Sussex bowler who was included in the 13-man squad for Canterbury but missed out on the final XI, is again selected, alongside Lancashire's Saqib Mahmood, a team-mate in the ICC Under-19s World Cup early last year.

James Whitaker, the National Selector, said: "We did not consider players from Nottinghamshire or Surrey because the last day of the game clashes with the Royal London One-Day Cup final on July 1, and as ever we were mindful that all 18 first-class counties have important fixtures in the Specsavers County Championship day-night round which runs from Monday to Thursday.

"Gary Ballance has had an excellent start to the season with Yorkshire, impressing with both his batting and his captaincy, and we wanted to give him this opportunity to lead the Lions against international opposition.

"Similarly for Sam Billings, it is a chance for him to show what he can do both as a batsman and a wicketkeeper in a first-class fixture for the Lions after several months playing one-day and T20 cricket for England and in the IPL.

"Sam Robson has earned his recall with his consistent run-scoring for Middlesex, Tom Westley and Liam Livingstone both made a positive impression for the Lions in Sri Lanka last winter, and this is a great opportunity to see Mason Crane bowling with a red ball against international opposition, after such an encouraging start with the white ball this week.

"Mason's inclusion also means he will be able to work for the first time with Saqlain Mushtaq who will be spending more time with the Lions next week after working with Jack Leach and Dom Bess in Canterbury, as part of his role as a spin consultant with the ECB."

England Lions squad Keaton Jennings (Durham), Sam Robson (Middlesex), Tom Westley (Essex), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire, capt), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Joe Clarke (Worcestershire), Sam Billings (Kent, wk), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), George Garton (Sussex), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Mason Crane (Hampshire).