AND selectors have defended the surprise call-up of Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance for the winter Ashes series in Australia, despite his international experience amounting to a two-ball duck.
Ballance admitted his selection had come as a surprise and that he was daunted by the prospect, having only represented England for the first time in this month’s one-day international win in Ireland.
The 23-year-old left-hander is one of three uncapped players in the 17-man party, alongside Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes and Warwickshire’s former Ireland fast-bowler Boyd Rankin.
“There are no left-field selections,” national selector Geoff Miller said of Ballance, who averaged 52.37 in 13 matches during the 2013 Division One season. “He has played very well for Yorkshire so it’s not a left-field selection, it’s considered.”
Miller added that Ballance, Stokes and Rankin had earned their places on the tour, which departs next month, with their performances in the England Performance Programme.
“I wasn’t expecting it and I was surprised when I got the call,” said Zimbabwe-born Ballance.
“I am looking forward to it. It will be a great lifetime experience. It will be an honour to represent England at the highest level and it will be extra special in an Ashes Series.
“It will be a little daunting playing with some of the best players in the world but I know that I’ll be made welcome. I’ve spoken to [Yorkshire colleagues] Joe [Root], Jonny [Bairstow] and Tim [Bresnan] and they speak highly of the dressing room.”
Stokes and Rankin impressed in this month’s one-day series against Australia, although Miller highlighted the importance of county displays in the latter’s case.
“It’s not just the one-day performances, he’s performed very well for Warwickshire,” he added. “He’s a very difficult person to bat against so I think in Australian conditions he’ll be very, very difficult for them and a threat for us.”
Spinner Monty Panesar is among three men recalled for the series, which begins in Brisbane on 21 November and concludes in the first week of January, despite his recent disciplinary issues.
“He’s appreciated he has made errors and he’s very sure that those errors are behind him now,” said Miller.
“He’s very prepared to let his bowling do the talking for him, so I’m prepared to accept that.”
Hampshire opener Michael Carberry, whose sole Test outing came against Bangladesh in 2010, has also been recalled, as has Surrey seamer Chris Tremlett. Carberry’s selection means more heartache for Somerset’s Nick Compton, who was overlooked for this summer’s 3-0 Ashes victory.
Seamer Tim Bresnan has been omitted as he continues his recovery from injury but will travel with the squad.