Gary Ballance heads to Australia this week – a country which could play a significant role in his career over the next two years.
The highly-rated 23-year-old Yorkshire batsman is touring down under with the England Lions squad, and could play one-day matches at iconic venues such as the MCG in Melbourne and SCG in Sydney during the next month.
White Rose team-mate Joe Root has shown this winter just how quickly a player’s career can progress by impressing for the full England side in all three forms of the game.
After tackling New Zealand this winter, England travel to Australia in each of the next two winters for an Ashes series and a 50-over World Cup, with Ballance a stronger possibility for the latter.
However, given a strong forthcoming summer with Yorkshire in the County Championship, it is not impossible for the Zimbabwe-born left-hander to force his way into the Test squad within the next 12 months as well.
“I’ve got no doubt that Gary will go on and play for England, definitely in the shorter format, and he’ll be a massive player for his country if he continues to develop like he is,” said Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale.
“Gary likes to perform under pressure. We saw that all last season, that he plays at his best when we’re under the pump. He’s shown what he’s about in all formats.”
Ballance has an impressive record in limited overs cricket, having scored 2,459 runs in 85 List ‘A’ and Twenty20 matches, including four hundreds and 11 half-centuries.
And he has done it against some of the best players in the world to boot – none more so than at the Champions League t20 event in South Africa in October when he scored crucial 50s against Trinidad & Tobago and Chennai Super Kings.
His unbeaten 64 against T&T at Centurion when the game was slipping away sealed the county’s qualification into the main group stage of the competition.
“That knock against T&T was as good an innings as you’ll see in t20, and the way he timed it was perfection,” added Gale.
“He’s got the ability to go through the gears too. T&T were cruising at one stage, but Gary gave himself a chance and has the ability to start hitting sixes and take the game away from you. That’s exactly what he did.
“We were struggling that day. Me and Jaquesy had got out early, it was a tough pitch to bat on, they had some world-class bowlers who had just come back from winning the World Cup with West Indies, and for us to win from where we were was massive.
“It was tough out in South Africa. A lot of the batters found it quite tough with the pace of the pitches and guys bowling at 90mph, but Gary adapted to it straight away. He was performing against some of the world’s best cricketers.”
The Lions play eight 50-over matches in Australia, starting with a clash against Victoria Second XI on February 7.