GARY BALLANCE is confident of retaining his place in England’s Test team for June’s home series against Sri Lanka after starting the summer with a bang for Yorkshire yesterday.
But the 24-year-old left-hander remains determined to focus purely on White Rose matters until he hears differently.
Ballance and opener Adam Lyth both scored morale boosting centuries during the second day of the county’s three-day friendly against Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities at Headingley.
In reply to the students’ 139 on day one, Yorkshire reached close on 336-5 from 104 overs yesterday, which also included an encouraging 61 not out from York’s Jonny Bairstow, who was also a winter Ashes tourist.
Lyth top-scored with 130 off 227 balls as stand-in captain Ballance’s side amassed a lead of 227 by the time bad light stopped play at 5.10pm.
But for Ballance, who hit 101 off 154 balls, this was his third successive first-class century in Yorkshire colours after two in the final LV= County Championship match of last season against Surrey at the Oval.
In his last four innings for the county, he has scored 447 runs at an average of 149. That is certainly the kind of form that will impress the England selectors.
“It’s still a long time until the first Test. There’s a few players who have left, and I’m going to have to score runs to put my name in the hat,” said Ballance.
“I’ve started quite well here, and hopefully I can take a bit of form into the Championship games.
“I’ve said this since I got back from Australia. I’ve just got to work hard, score some runs in the Championship games and try and get a few wins for Yorkshire. I can’t look too far ahead - I don’t think anyone can.”
Ballance scored 18 and seven on his Test debut at Sydney in January, but seemed to do enough to suggest he can be part of England’s immediate Test future.
And despite being part of the squad that lost the Ashes 5-0, he enjoyed his first senior England tour, which also included 79 in a one-day international at the MCG.
“It’s been good, but tough,” Ballance said of his winter. “In terms of results, it didn’t go too well, but I got to work hard on my game in the nets for two months. I feel like I’m a better player for it.
“We’ve got a lot of cricket now, so hopefully I can get a few runs to show that I have improved.
“It was a great honour to play Test cricket for your country, and to play at the SCG in the Ashes was amazing. The result didn’t go as we wanted, but it was a great moment for me and very special.”
Ballance and Lyth shared 149 for the third wicket yesterday, although there were failures for Jack Leaning (13) and Adil Rashid (a duck).
Bairstow hit two sixes in one over off Alex MacQueen’s off-spin. The first, a straight blow, brought up his fifty.