Zim-born Ballance in England’s Ashes squad


LONDON – England have given Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance a surprise call-up to their Ashes squad to tour Australia this winter.

The 23-year-old left-hander, who was born in Zimbabwe, is uncapped at Test level and has only played a single one-day international for England.

New Zealand-born all-rounder Ben Stokes and ex-Ireland pace bowler Boyd Rankin, who are yet to play a Test, also make the squad, as do left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, top-order batsman Michael Carberry and seamer Chris Tremlett.

However, seamers Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions miss out on the 17-man squad, along with spinner James Tredwell and opener Nick Compton.

Bresnan is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his back.

"He will travel to Australia with the squad to maximise his rehab opportunities with the medical team and coaches who will monitor his progress," said national selector Geoff Miller.

The Ashes series down under begins in Brisbane on 21 November, with the fifth and final Test starting in Sydney on 2 January.

Despite their lack of experience at Test level, Rankin, 29, and Stokes, 22, both impressed for England in the recent ODI series defeat by Australia.

The height of Rankin and Tremlett also appears to have worked in their favour, with the pitches in Australia expected to offer bounce.

Panesar has got the nod ahead of Tredwell as reserve spinner behind first-choice Graeme Swann.

The last of Panesar's 48 Test wickets came in March and he has managed to earn a call-up despite his recent indiscretions at a nightclub in August, which was followed by him leaving Sussex to join Essex on loan.

"He's appreciated he's made errors and he's very sure that those errors are behind him now," explained Miller. "He's been selected because that's been rectified.

"He's an experienced international player and it's up to him to actually produce the goods for us. He's very prepared to let his bowling do the talking for him, so I'm prepared to accept that."

Ballance has played only one ODI, which came against Ireland in September in which he was dismissed for a duck.

However, he averages 52.17 after 64 first-class matches.

"There are no left-field selections," said Miller. "He's played very well for Yorkshire so it's not a left-field selection, it's considered."

Miller added that picking Durham's Stokes – who was sent home from last winter's England Lions tour of Australia for disciplinary reasons – was about keeping one eye on the future.

"It's not just about picking the side," he said. "You obviously pick players to win the series but we have to think about the future as well, the immediate future and a bit further on.

"He's proved over the last year or so that he's developing his game rapidly, he's an exciting prospect.

"He comes into the squad to feel the atmosphere and we know he's capable of doing a job for us in the all-rounder position."

England have also named a 16-strong performance squad, which will also tour Australia and act as back-up to the main party.

Miller added: "The England Performance Programme provides an excellent opportunity for those players identified as having considerable talent to train together in an England environment throughout the winter and further develop as cricketers and this is an exciting young squad who have impressed in domestic cricket recently.

"Ballance, Rankin and Stokes have all come through the EPP in recent years and have put in strong performances for their counties and England teams to earn an opportunity to step into the Test environment." – BBC

England Test squad for Australia: Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell Gary Balance, Michael Carberry, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad Graeme Swann, James Anderson,Monty Panesar, Steven Finn, Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlett.

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