Gary Ballance drives the ball on his way to his second Test century © Getty Images
With a century against India at Lord’s in the second Test match of the series, Gary Ballance once again showed his ability to absorb pressure and score valuable runs. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the man who could one day become a star for England.
There is much to like about Gary Simon Ballance. He has a bright disposition, a reassuring presence at the crease, and an off-side game that would make Sourav Ganguly proud. He does not come across as an extravagant stroke-maker, but much like Ajinkya Rahane, seems like a batsman who can play well within his own limitations.
The Zimbabwe-born No 3 has now played four Tests for England. He has registered at least 70 on four occasions, once in each match. In the ongoing Test against India, he saved the day for England with a well-compiled 110, without which England would have been in a very poor position.
What stands out about his batsmanship is the no-frills, no-thrills approach he takes. It seems rather unlikely that he will ever hit six sixes in an over, or decimate an attack with savage slogs. However, it is quite conceivable that he will grind bowlers into the ground, while punishing bad balls and playing good, old-fashioned cricket.
Ballance showed that he could put in the aggressive touch as well; he went from 85 to 103 in eight balls, with four boundaries. He took on Stuart Binny — perhaps not the quickest customer — in the process, essentially blunting the all-rounder’s potency with the ball.
With Alastair Cook and Ian Bell struggling for form, the onus has been on the younger players to perform. Sam Robson and Ballance have made up for the repeated failures of Bell and Cook at the top of the order, and that has allowed both men to get extended runs. From that perspective, Ballance’s contribution to the side has been more than what the stats books say.
What is even more impressive is that Ballance has been able to put a rather embarrassing incident that occurred a few days ago behind him, wherein the batsman had been photographed in an unflattering manner after a night out with some of his teammates.
However, what should be noted is that in the past some international players have taken to fisticuffs after hitting the beer hard, and in the process caused harm to either fellow players or other patrons. What Ballance did — albeit shirtless — was proclaim his love for England over and over again; something that would have perhaps endeared him to his teammates.
England are going through a transition stage at the moment. Robson, Ballance and Moeen Ali are all fresh recruits with the big boots to fill. Of the lot, Ballance has looked by far the one who belongs the most. It is still early days, but if he can continue going in similar vein, he could be one of England’s brightest prospects in days to come.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)