GARY BALLANCE admits his thirst for improvement remains unquenched after making an impressive return to action with Yorkshire after more than 18 months away from competitive cricket.

Yorkshire’s batting linchpin has returned with scores of 74 (Sussex away) and 96 (Kent at home) in three LV= Insurance County Championship fixtures.

The left-hander missed the whole of last summer through illness before missing the opening two games of 2021 following concussion.

He has played his part in the White Rose county’s three wins and two draws, leaving them second in Group Three - seven points behind Lancashire.

And he will be hoping to post a first century since July 2019 in this Thursday’s clash at Glamorgan, which Sky Sports will televise.

Ballance, 31, says he is loving life back in the thick of the action and that his time away has maybe given him a more relaxed attitude to his cricket despite a pursuit for perfection.

“I am still a perfectionist and strive to get better all time. But I have felt more at ease over the last month or so,” he admitted ahead of a game which pits England Test captain Joe Root against Glamorgan’s Australian pair Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, and feeling better in myself makes a massive difference when I’m playing.

“I’ve enjoyed playing and being around the lads. Hopefully that will continue for some time.”

The fire in Ballance’s belly was clear to see on Sunday when he was run out for 96 against Kent: “He took his pads off and went straight to the gym and took his anger out in there,” said coach Andrew Gale.

Ballance spoke about feeling out of rhythm in the early stages of his Kent innings, but he looks like he has slotted back into the cut and thrust of Championship cricket seamlessly.

“Even though I didn’t play last year, I still hit a lot of balls in the nets and batted a lot. It was the same in the winter,” he reasoned.

“Obviously games are different, but I had three decent scores in the pre-season friendlies.

“It can feel a bit rusty at times, but once I get through the first 20 or 30 balls it’s almost like I have been playing and batting all this time.

“It doesn’t feel like I didn’t play for that long - it feels like it went really quickly and I was straight back into it.”

There will be a couple of sub plots in South Wales, both involving Root in what is expected to be his final Championship appearance before England’s early June Test series with New Zealand.

One is another meeting with younger brother Billy after the latter scored a century in last month’s snowy draw at Emerald Headingley.

The other is a pre-Ashes battle with Aussie batsman Labuschagne and compatriot seamer Neser, Glamorgan’s two overseas players.

Ballance added: “It might be seen as that, but from our point of view it’s really intense anyway. Every game is an opportunity for us to score runs, take wickets and win games.

“They have quality all through their side. It will be a tough game, that is for sure.”

David Willey is back in contention after a week’s rest.

Glamorgan are fourth in Group Three with one win, two draws and two defeats. They are 28 points behind Yorkshire and had a rain-affected draw with Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford over the weekend.