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Yorkshire's Gary Ballance impresses
Gary Ballance has impressed many an onlooker with runs in all forms for Yorkshire this summer – not least his uncle Dave!
The 22-year-old left-hander has scored 683 runs in Championship, 40-over and Twenty20 cricket for his county in 2012, including two hundreds and two fifties.
He has turned himself into a possible England Lions player for later in the summer having not even been a regular in any of the White Rose county’s teams at the start of last season, which is something that has delighted former Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton.
Houghton, currently on the coaching staff at County Championship rivals Derbyshire, is Ballance’s uncle.
He has had a big influence on the Zimbabwe-born player’s career having most recently convinced him to spend the last two winters playing domestic cricket in his homeland for the MidWest Rhinos, formerly coached by Jason Gillespie.
“Gary’s starting to reach his full potential,” said Houghton.
“For a long time, he was just a youngster coming through. But playing first-team cricket at Yorkshire in all formats has done wonders for him.
“The cricket in Zimbabwe is not as strong as in England, but it’s allowed him to go and get some first-class hundreds under his belt. Then he’s obviously come back to Yorkshire full of confidence.
“His game has definitely developed very quickly. Whether that’s happened in Zimbabwe or at Yorkshire, he’s got everything now.”
Ballance’s versatility is highlighted by the fact that he is towards the top of Yorkshire’s averages in all three forms, and has a higher combined total of runs than anybody else at Headingley.
Not only has he played a key part in winning Twenty20 matches, most recently against Lancashire at Headingley on Friday with 42 off 23 balls, but he has also done it in division two of the Championship.
Arguably the best knock of his career was the unbeaten 121 to help chase down 400 in the second innings against Gloucestershire at Bristol in May.
“He’s got all the shots and the variations in one-day cricket, but then you can put him in the first-class arena and he can hold an end up as long as you want,” continued Houghton, who recently saw his nephew score 47 not out off 35 to help secure a Twenty20 win over Derbyshire.
“I’ve seen it against the sides I look after in Zimbabwe, in particular. He’s just so destructive.
“He’ll drop down on one knee and flick you over fine-leg, then the next minute he’s whacking you over mid-wicket for six.
“Look at the big hundred he got earlier in the season when they chased down 400 at Bristol.
“It’s one thing scoring hundreds in the first innings. They’re not meaningless, but you’re only setting up a game and you have a second chance if you fail.
“When you’re chasing 400 and you get a hundred to get your team over the line, that shows more than just ability.
“That shows enormous mental strength.”
Yorkshire, who need one more win to secure a Twenty20 quarter-final place, are next in action against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge on Thursday night.