England Lions v Australians, tour match, Northampton, 1st day August 16, 2013

Ballance enhances international credentials


England Lions 269 for 7 (Ballance 104, Ali 61, Lyon 3-80) v Australians

Gary Ballance enhanced his international credentials with a stylish century against the Australians on a rain-affected first day in Northampton, where Nathan Lyon was the pick of a weakened attack.

Lyon enjoyed working against an England Lions order stacked with left-handers and collected 3 for 80, but he was unable to curb the influence of Ballance, who was out late in the day for 104.

The first session was lost to drizzle but a clear and sunny afternoon meant that 77 overs were still possible and Ballance used them to show that Yorkshire's production line of young batsmen extends beyond Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Ballance had scored two centuries already this month, 112 against Warwickshire in the County Championship and 139 against Unicorns in the Yorkshire Bank 40, and here he looked the most accomplished of the England Lions batsmen.

Whereas the rest of the left-handers struggled against the away spin of Lyon, Ballance was less inclined to drive early and worked his way into form while waiting for the bad balls. He was strong when driving off the back foot - one such punch to the boundary brought up his half-century off Mitchell Starc - and drove down the ground against Ashton Agar, raising his hundred with his only six, a slog over midwicket from Steven Smith from his 153rd delivery.

But next ball Ballance fell in a not dissimilar style to Chris Rogers in the Lord's Test, missing a Smith full toss that the umpire adjudged would have gone on and hit the stumps. It was the second wicket Smith claimed with a rank full toss, after Jos Buttler on 7 sent one down the throat of Lyon at deep midwicket. Smith finished with 2 for 8 from two overs but his figures were far more attractive than his bowling, which was only used late in the day.

The presence of Starc and James Faulkner as the only seamers in Australia's attack meant that spin was the main order of the day and Lyon was used the most. After David Warner was brought on as first change, sending down some ordinary slow-medium seam-up offerings, the stand-in captain Shane Watson turned to Lyon and he was immediately effective, finding an edge from Alex Lees that was put down by Watson at first slip.

Lees was on 16 at the time but the miss wasn't too costly; on 33 he again edged Lyon and this one was taken by Watson, the first of three catches at slip that he claimed off Lyon's bowling. Lyon, who drifted the ball in from around the wicket and extracted some turn and bounce, was also unlucky not to have Moeen Ali caught at point on 15 when an edgy drive appeared to fall just short of Warner.

Lyon picked up his second wicket when Eoin Morgan launched a loose drive outside off and edged to Watson on 5, but that brought together Moeen and Ballance, who added 70 for the fourth wicket. Moeen looked nervous early against the ball turning away but was happier when Ashton Agar came on, lofting him over long-on for six before boosting his confidence further with a classy sweep for six off Lyon.

Moeen brought up his half-century with a flick through the leg side off Agar, who struggled to find the right line, bowling to a leg-side heavy field against the left-handers, and did little to enhance his chances of a return for the fifth Test at The Oval. In the end it was pace that accounted for Moeen, who on 61 edged Starc to second slip just after tea, providing the second wicket for the seamers after opener Luke Wells had earlier prodded tamely and edged Faulkner behind for 10.

Moeen's departure brought Ben Stokes to the crease to join Ballance and Stokes played a couple of impressive strokes, including a back-foot drive for four off Faulkner, but he did not give himself a chance of going on when Lyon returned to the attack. The first ball that Stokes faced from Lyon he tried an expansive drive through the off side and edged to Watson at first slip for 19.

Lyon finished with three wickets and had a couple of other close calls, including when a diving Smith at midwicket couldn't grasp a very tough chance off Buttler. On a greenish-tinged pitch that offered a little sideways movement but not much pace, Starc and Faulkner provided few seriously challenging deliveries to the England Lions' batsmen, which might encourage the Australian batting order ahead of the second day's play.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    Not sure how anyone can reasonably claim Hain is Australian, considering he has two English parents and was born in Hong Kong. If Hain decides he wants to play for England, I don't see the problem.

  • Mark on August 17, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    @Jono Makim That is the point that I am making. Australia are finally coming into the 21st century and realising that international mobility and dual nationality are facts of life. My father was British, but had dual nationality. My daughter has a different combination of dual nationality. I am British, but if I put my mind to it I could obtain two other nationalities. People emigrate. Many did emigrate from the UK after the War, often to South Africa (e.g. the Comptons) because like Australia (Sam Robson), it was a home away from home. You cannot legislate to stop people with the right to multiple nationalities, whose families emigrated in the recent past, declaring for whoever they want when national laws permit it. I applaud the ACB for ending the hypocrisy in this and accepting the realities of the modern world.

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    @Cricketing Stargazer, yes, how dare we change a rule to keep our own players playing in our system... tut tut. Guys like Jaques, Robson and Hain have all represented Australia, its a joke that the ECB recognises them as local players in the first place.

    Gary Ballance has also represented Zimbabwe at underage level, while I don't begrudge him his opportunity at a proper career in England for one second, I still find it very sad that Zimbabwe has lost such a highly talented player to England, again. How long until we see overseas born players outnumbering Englishmen in the three Lions? Arguably, with the likes of Ballance, Robson, Stokes, Morgan, KP, Rankin, Dernbach, Kieswetter and Trott all on the scene it is entirely feasible, throw in Dockrell perhaps and young Chesney Hughes and that is looking like a well rounded team!

  • John on August 17, 2013, 10:39 GMT

    @Rob McGill- Root and Bairstow could do with some more practice. Don't see what's wrong with AW's idea. It's surely more useful than giving games to shorter format specialists who should be nowhere near the test side

    @Matt Hallett- Plunkett , Ali and Barker are all North of 25 and the examples which AW gave (who he said should be in the side) are all under 25. If Root and JB played in this game and failed it may have dented their confidence but by the same token , had they done well in this game it may have kickstarted them into some form. As for Jos - he did keep wicket in the last YB40 game. Somerset apparently had no deal with him that he'd keep in all shorter fmt games , but that they'd let him keep in certain games near to the time when he has a series for England

  • John on August 17, 2013, 10:39 GMT

    @Andy_Wright on (August 16, 2013, 13:52 GMT) Yeah , I get your points. Craig is far better than Jos in the 4 day game but he seems out of the reckoning with Eng period right now. Also understand your reasoning behind the criticisms of Eng picking shorter format specialists for this game. They seem to have an obsession in trying to develop these players into test players. My take is that if they can't do it at county level then how are they likely to do it when up in levels? I'd say that if Morgan (if he starts playing more CC cricket) and Buttler show an upturn in form then start picking them for Lions games but until then give the opportunities to the CC form players. PS not sure Woakes is on the best of form in the CC this year (comp to last year) but they have continually picked him in shorter formats whereas this game is much more suited to his game

  • Samuel on August 17, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Good runs for Ballance and Moeen, Ballance in with a real shout for being the spare batsman in Oz. Would've liked to see Robson and Burns in this game at the top of the order though, although with Burns playing for Surrey at Finals Day and Robson's international future undecided as of yet it perhaps wasn't possible. On another note, I hope this is a bit of a wake-up call for Morgan; I know he's had an injury which has interrupted his season, but he hasn't passed 50 in ANY of his innings this summer, international or domestic, at least not that I can remember. Hope he realises he needs to stop pretending he can wing it on limited overs form and needs to play a full First Class season next year if he's serious about getting back into the Test side.

    On the opposition, that decision to leave Lyon out for the first two Tests looks even more misguided with every over he bowls. He is no Warne - we know that - but he is a solid scrapper of an offie, with the potential to get better to boot.

  • Mark on August 17, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    Just out of curiosity and following up my previous post, can anyone explain the ogica of this match. Two days, 6 hours per day. Playing conditions for the County Championship request 96 overs per day and those are rarely completed by the 1800 scheduled Close (these do not apply here, so it requires goodwill to get the overs in). Then, if no result is possible on the final day, play ends an hour early.

    What is the logic in requesting and scheduling a match in which it is very unlikely, even given goodwill, that even two innings can be completed? In case someone asks, it is the visiting Board that requests the fxtures and that host Board that organising them and finds the opposition.

    This most be a strong contender for the most pointless match ever!

    [Incidentally, in a week where Australia have picked a Pakistani with a fast-tracked pastport and changed their rules to make it easier for dual nationals to play Tests for them, let's not talk about Gary Ballance!! Changed world]

  • Ohhhh on August 17, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    Ballance averages 46.81 in domestic FC cricket in England (despite playing at Headingley and debuting in English cricket as a 16 year old!). He's also averages 48, 39 and 64 in his last 3 seasons in English county cricket. Hitting 6 hundreds and 17 fifties in just 58 innings. He's the best young batsman in the game along with Alex Lees and Joe Root.

  • Mark on August 17, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    @jmcilhinney THe game is being played at Wantage Road because it was originally a fixture for Northamptonshire v tourists. As Northamptonshire are otherwise engaged this weekend, the game was re-arranged as a Lions game, but, obviously, with no Surrey, Northamptonshire, Essex ot Hampshire players being considered. And, strangely, Sam Robson was not picked either (I have my theories on that).

    It's not a terrilbly satisfactory game given that 100 overs per side, as scheduled, would barely fit into two full days, let alone a match that has already lost a session and may well lose more today.

  • John on August 17, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    PEOPLE...PEOPLE...PEOPLE who do not follow the English game....Ballance's avg is boost up from his stint playing first class cricket in Zim. Don't just look at stats and think you are an expert when it comes to the England squad.