Analysis - Does Ballance Unbalance England?

Gary Ballance
Gary Ballance - England's latest number three batsman; but is he the right choice?
©REUTERS / Action Images

Gary Ballance drew much criticism during the first day's play at Lord's against Sri Lanka. The Yorkshireman’s innings was criticised for its looseness and his penchant for hitting the ball behind square on the off side.

Admittedly, Ballance did not look like a number three batsmen; at this stage in his career, he lacks both the experience and temperament to prosper at 'first drop'.

This is not to say that Ballance is a bad player. Far from it. I believe him to be supremely talented and he should absolutely be in England’s Tes team.

But I would argue that Ballance would be much more at home in the middle order, batting at five or six, where he has prospered for Yorkshire over the past few seasons. In this position, Ballance’s liking for the short ball and his ability to score quickly become assets rather than risks.

He has a curious and idiosyncratic trigger movement, moving back and across in an exaggerated manner before the ball is delivered. This movement means that has technique is not best equipped to repel bowling which is full of a good length and then offers movement either in the air or off the pitch.

If Ballance were to come in down the order, in theory, the bowlers should have lost some of their potency. It is also important not to underestimate the importance of mindset; Ballance has come to the crease for Yorkshire with three or four wickets down and has seen a variety of situations.

He is experienced enough to be able to cope with most situations at five or six in the batting line-up. What he has not got however is a bank of experience to tap into, when it comes to batting at number three.

So if Ballance is not the man to bat at three for England in Tests as they stumble into a so-called ‘New Era’; who is?

The two men often touted for the role are Joe Root and Ian Bell. Root has done the job before, during England’s disastrous winter and appeared to show fight against Australia’s brutal quicks.

Root, however, does not have much experience of batting at three for his county and appears to need time back in the middle order where he initially made his name.

Bell is undoubtedly England’s premier batsmen in the long form of the game after the retirement of Kevin Pietersen and many have called for him to take the responsibility and stand up to be counted at number three. But for me, Bell is best suited to the number four role where he is able to dictate the game and use his balletic footwork against spinners to build England a commanding total.

My pick for the number three slot for England in tests would be a man who, as recently as this month, has scored 162 for his county batting at number three. Moeen Ali has spent the majority of the last five seasons for his beloved Worcestershire batting in this position and he is completely at ease with the role.

He would have the requisite pool of experience to play in accordance with match situations as well as the range of stroke play to dictate the play. Moeen would also give England a second spin option on pitches that require it and allow them to play four seamers alongside a specialist twirler.

He may have only just started his Test career, and he did play a rash and loose shot to be dismissed in his first innings, but I think that he may well have a long-term future for England as a Test number three.

One final point: Everything in this article is what I believe, but if Jonathan Trott makes a full recovery and can prove he is ready for Test cricket again, then he gets straight back into the side.

No argument. Hope to see you soon Trotty.

© Cricket World 2014

Fixtures & Results

20th May: Twenty20 International, The Oval, London
Sri Lanka 183-7 (T Perera 49) beat
England 174-7 (Hales 66) by nine runs
22nd May: 1st ODI, The Kia Oval, London
England 247-6 (Ballance 64, Bell 50) beat
Sri Lanka 144 (Jordan 3-25) by 81 runs (D/L)
25th May: 2nd ODI, EDICG, Chester-le-Street
Sri Lanka 256-8 (Dilshan 88, Gurney 3-59) beat
England 99 (Senanayake 4-13) by 157 runs
28th May: 3rd ODI, Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
England 73-0 (Bell 41no, Cook 30no) beat
Sri Lanka 67 (Jordan 5-29) by 10 wickets
31st May: 4th ODI, Lord's, London
Sri Lanka 300-9 (Sangakkara 112, Dilshan 71) beat
England 293-8 (Buttler 121) by seven runs
3rd June: 5th ODI, Edgbaston, Birmingham
Sri Lanka 222-4 (Thirimanne 60no) beat
England 219 (Cook 56) by six wickets
12th-16th June: 1st Test, Lord's, London
England 575-9 dec. & 267-8 dec. drew with
Sri Lanka 453 (Sangakkara 147) & 201-9
20th-24th June: 2nd Test, Headingley, Leeds
Sri Lanka 257 & 457 (Mathews 160) beat
England 365 & 249 (Moeen Ali 108no) by 100 runs