Opinion: Is Ballance the right fit to replace Trott?

Blog Opinion

There's no doubt that playing international cricket is the pinnacle for any cricketer. The opportunity to pull on your country's jersey is every player's dream but of the many that devote time and effort in pursuit of the coveted goal, only a select few actually get the opportunity.

There's no doubt that playing international cricket is the pinnacle for any cricketer.

The opportunity to pull on your country's jersey is every player's dream but of the many that devote time and effort in pursuit of the coveted goal, only a select few actually get the opportunity.

For some, however, the gulf in class between the domestic and international game proves a bridge too far. Any hint of a weakness is ruthlessly exposed as players who promise so much and consistently perform for their club, in fact, deliver very little on the biggest stage – it's a game littered with those who fail to convert their undoubted ability when it matters most.

Growing up on a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe, Gary Ballance always dreamt about playing international cricket. A string of events, which culminated in his arrival in England at just 16, meant his ambition was to wear the Three Lions on his chest rather than the stone-carved bird of his native country.

However, when his much deserved time came – an One-Day International in Dublin – it was far from the quintessential debut he had naturally fantasised about in the fields of Harare. Anybody can have a bad day, or be on the end of an unplayable delivery, or simply play one uncharacteristically rash shot – it's the very nature of the game. But, this was a potentially damning innings, albeit a brief one. For those familiar with Ballance's domineering and powerful style, it was tough to watch.

There was no doubt he was there on merit, but this was not the same player who was the cornerstone of Yorkshire's Championship drive, nor the player who scored three consecutive half-centuries for the England Lions in Australia twelve months ago, nor was this the player who smashed Australia and Bangladesh A to all corners during back-to-back centuries during the summer.

Ballance's usually confidence-filled demeanor went temporarily AWOL as his feet became rooted to the foot holes, forcing him to push and prod outside his off-stump before his dismissal ultimately reflected a player swamped by nerves on debut.

With places in the panel at a premium and the competition high, this trip to the Emerald Isle could have been Ballance's first and last in the red apparell of England, for the imminent future anyway. Many would have let the chastening experience play on their mind as they continuously question their ability to rub shoulders with the best on a regular basis.

Yet, Ballance returned to the domestic stage and proceeded to do what he does on a consistent basis – score an abundance of runs in a classy manner while dazzling those fortunate enough who are on hand to witness his crisp stroke play.

Exactly four months after that forgettable day in Dublin, 23-year-old Ballance could be in line – depending on who you ask – for another debut. And while the setting of Malahide was a picturesque location, the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval in the south of Australia will provide a glimmer of that romantic debut he dreamt about. All that will be left to do is finally deliver the performance we all know he's capable of.

For differing reasons, England's usually stable and reliable batting order has been thrown into disarray. A combination of poor form, a fired-up opposition attack and the departure of Jonathan Trott because of a stress-related illness has seen the management tinker with different formulas, strategies and everything in between during the ten days since that seismic defeat in Brisbane.

With batting resources a little thin – Aussie-born Sam Robson and axed duo Bopara and Morgan among the possible replacements – there is no real surprise that Andy Flower has resisted temptation to call-up an extra body. The two-day game in Alice Springs against the Cricket Australia Chairman's XI, which was no doubt originally pencilled in to give the squad members the chance to keep things ticking over, took on an added significance; becoming a magnified audition for Trott's prospective replacements.

Consequently, there is likely to be a substantial reshuffle in the English side for the second Test at the renovated Adelaide Oval. One change that may not have been predicted is the return of all-rounder Tim Bresnan after the bustling bowler impressed during the Development Squad's recent game in Queensland. Bresnan is being tipped to replace Chris Tremlett after the latter's modest performance in Brisbane while Bresnan will give an added balance to the side as well as boosting the batting depth.

However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding the identity of Trott's replacement. With the three candidates having little or no Test experience between them, either Joe Root or Ian Bell will be pushed up the order to fill the pivotal number three role, paving the way for a return to the side for Jonny Bairstow or one of the uncapped duo of Ballance or promising all-rounder Ben Stokes.

Root has already been utilised as an opener and number six on this tour and is being widely tipped to bat at number three when the second Test starts on Thursday but such nomadicity can only be a little disorientating. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old insists he'll bat anywhere for the team and the unsettling nature of the past seven days will be blunted if one of his close friends and fellow Yorkshiremen get the call.

Regardless who gets the nod on Thursday morning, they will be thrown in at the deep-end. Only Bairstow has experience at Test level, but has struggled during his twelve games to date, while Ballance and Stokes have only a handful of international games between them.

Bairstow, who lost his place in the Test team when Root dropped to number six and Michael Carberry was included as opener, is seen as the safe option but has done little to merit his inclusion after a string of inconsistent performances.

While, the wicket-keeper batsman has the benefit of experience on his side, he is yet to fulfil the initial promise he showed and convince the public and selectors that he's the man to solve the long-standing middle-order deficiency.

However, his technique has been called into question previously with the short-ball, in particular, often exposing his shortcomings and his tendency to do all the hard work before getting himself out. His superior experience puts him in good stead, but for now, there are too many glitches in his game to be thrown into the heat of battle.

There were some murmurs that Durham's Ben Stokes could be given the nod with his useful bowling and ability to swing the ball giving Alistair Cook an extra option but the return of Tim Bresnan as a bowling all-rounder has presumably ended that thinking.

Essentially, England have lost one of their best batsmen and need to replace like for like and at the minute, Stokes doesn't offer that. The left-hander is an extravagant stroke player and is arguably suited more to the limited-overs format, adding a sense of risk to his selection when

Latest