Eyebrows were raised when English batsman Gary Ballance found a place in the squad for the first Test against Pakistan which begins on July 14 at Lord’s, especially with Jos Buttler failing to earn a recall despite splendid form in the shorter formats. The man himself has come out and spoken of the surprise he felt when he got a highly unexpected call-up.
The other major surprise in the team was the inclusion of uncapped Toby Roland-Jones, the 28-year-old Middlesex fast bowler.
Ballance’s previous appearance for the national side came during the 2015 Ashes series against Australia and though the hosts triumphed 2-1 in the 5-match series, Ballance struggled for form scoring just 98 runs from the two matches he played in. Having excelled against West Indies in England’s previous away tour to the West Indies, expectations were high from Ballance, but he failed to deliver against New Zealand initially and later against England’s arch-rivals.
His return of 336 runs in 13 innings for Yorkshire in the County Championship meant Durham youngster Scott Borthwick was expected to receive his first call-up in place of Nick Crompton, who is taking a break away from cricket after a woeful run of recent form, but a knock of 132 against Middlesex seems to have swung the pendulum in Ballance’s favour.
"It's all come as a bit of a surprise," Ballance told British media. “I was just doing a bit of grocery shopping when I got the call from national selector James Whitaker - just a standard Thursday morning!"
Though Ballance has made his mark in international cricket at the No 3 spot, having scored four centuries in his first nine Tests, he is expected to slot in the middle order if he does indeed make it to the playing eleven at Lord’s. Ballance though isn’t concerned about it too much and is instead content at having been given the opportunity to feature for England once again.
He is confident that he can make the second coming count having rectified certain flaws in his technique, which made him susceptible against the faster bowlers of New Zealand and Australia, getting out bowled in four of his last seven innings.
“Obviously, it’s a great feeling to be back in the squad, especially when you’ve been out of the side for a while,” the Zimbabwean-born batsman said. “I’ve had some time away, the chance to work on my game, and I feel like I’ve got back to where I want to be.”