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Yorkshire's Gary Ballance bids for Ashes place
Gary Ballance is determined not to put too much pressure on himself as he bids for an Ashes place.
The Yorkshire batsman jets out to Australia this evening to start his first full international tour with England, on which he will battle with county colleague and York-based Jonny Bairstow, Michael Carberry and Ben Stokes for a spot at number six in the Test team.
Left-handed Ballance earned his place in the squad on the back of an exceptional domestic summer, which saw him pass 1,000 LV= County Championship runs in a season for the first time in his career.
The 23-year-old, who turns 24 on the second day of the first Test at Brisbane on November 22, has three warm-up matches to impress team director Andy Flower and captain Alastair Cook.
“Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the whole experience. I think it will be a good tour, but a tough one at the same time,” said the Zimbabwean-born player.
“My main aim is to work as hard as I can. Then we’ll see what happens.
“To be part of an Ashes tour is something I’m really looking forward to. I’m really excited. I think it’s slowly started to sink in. It’s what you play cricket for – to play at the highest level.
“We’ve got about a month in Australia before the first Test, including the three warm-up games, and everybody’s hopefully going to get some good form leading to Brisbane. There will be a lot of hard work done in the nets and in the middle.
“I think I’ll be seeing it as having to get some runs to give myself a chance.
“There’s obviously some brilliant players who have performed consistently over the years who will be confident of their places.
“But hopefully I’ll get a chance in the warm-up games and I can get some runs and do as much as I can.”
England head into the series as holders of the Ashes after their 3-0 success during the most recent summer – a win Ballance believes can be repeated.
“It’s going to be tough playing in Australian conditions. The wickets will be a bit quicker I think.
“But I’m sure if everyone plays to their ability, then we’ll give ourselves a very good chance of winning the series,” he said.
England’s first warm-up match is against a Western Australia XI at the WACA ground in Perth next Thursday.
They then face Australia ‘A’ at Hobart and New South Wales at Sydney before heading to the Gabba.
If Ballance, who has so far played a solitary one-day international, is involved in the one-day and Twenty20 series in the New Year, he will be down under for just over three months.
It is a long tour, but there will be plenty of things to look forward to for the player who toured Australia with the Lions squad last winter, including a return to one of his favourite grounds.
“A Boxing Day Test at Melbourne with nearly 100,000 people in is what you dream of playing in. Just to be there, even if I don’t play, will be a great experience,” he added.
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