Batsman Gary Ballance has fast turned into a force to be reckoned with in all forms of the game, so much so that in early 2015, he became the third fastest England batsman to reach 1,000 Test runs.
Born in Zimbabwe into a family which includes ex-Test wicketkeeper and international coach David Houghton, Ballance joined Derbyshire’s books as a 16-year-old before signing Academy terms with Yorkshire ahead of the 2008 summer.
Despite having played for Zimbabwe under 19s at the World Cup in February of 2006, the destructive left-hander qualified for England and graduated from their Performance Programme camp to the England Lions squad, touring Australia in February of 2013.
And, during a superb summer for 2013 for Yorkshire and the Lions, he forced his way into the full England reckoning in both one-day and Test cricket. He made his one-day international debut against Ireland in Malahide in early September before being picked in the Test squad for the winter Ashes series of 2013/14.
He debuted at Sydney in January 2014 before cementing his place in the Test team with some stunning performances during the home summer against Sri Lanka and India. His maiden Test ton came against Sri Lanka at Lord’s just weeks after scoring a Championship ton at the same venue.
Ballance played under current Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie with the MidWest Rhinos in Zimbabwe during the winters of 2010/11 and 2011/12, and he scored four first-class hundreds for them before his first for Yorkshire in 2011.
In fact, ten of his 26 first-class hundreds to date have come for the Rhinos, including a career best 210.
Ballance also starred at the Champions League t20 competition in South Africa with half-centuries against Trinidad and Tobago and Chennai Super Kings.
2006 – Scored 211 runs, including two fifties, and took five wickets with his part-time leg-spin in seven matches for Zimbabwe under 19s at the World Cup in Sri Lanka in February. Made his Second and First XI debuts for Derbyshire, scoring 48 against a West Indies A side in the latter in August.
2007 – Scored two Second XI Championship hundreds for Derbyshire against Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire in August, the second and third of his career, before leaving for Yorkshire at the end of the season.
2008 – Made an inauspicious start to his County Championship career when making one and five on debut against Kent at Canterbury in July, and had to wait until the following September for his next appearance.
2009 – Made an encouraging 33 in a 40-over match against Essex at Headingley in September, the match in which Joe Root debuted.
2010 – Back in the Championship side for a defeat against Somerset, making four and 31 not out off 22 balls – a sign of his destructive nature. Posted an unbeaten 48 in a Twenty20 win – the third of his career – against his former county in July before notching his maiden first-class hundred for the Rhinos in October, the first of five for them in four months.
2011 – Notched ten first-class fifties for Yorkshire before scoring his first Championship century – 111 – against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in late August. Followed that with a career best 210 for the Rhinos five weeks later.
2012 – After scoring a stunning 121 not out against Gloucestershire in the Championship win at Bristol in May, he posted his maiden List A century for the county – his fourth in all – against the Unicorns at Scarborough later in the month. Having been awarded his county cap, captained Yorkshire during a CB40 match against Warwickshire in August before lighting up the Champions League t20 with two brilliant fifties in October.
2013 – After earning a place in the England Lions squad for their one-day tour of Australia in February and March, he returned to England to enjoy a special summer with Yorkshire and the Lions. He passed 1,000 Championship runs in a season for the first time in his career (final total 1,257), including five hundreds. Two of those came in the last match of the season against Surrey at the Oval. He also scored one-day hundreds for his county and the Lions. Unfortunately, he scored a duck on his one-day international debut against the Irish. He was one of four Yorkshire players to travel with the 2013/14 Ashes party. Also took one of the best catches seen at Headingley, a one-handed diving catch running back towards long-on in a Twenty20 match against Leicestershire.
2014 – Ballance made his Test debut in the fifth Ashes Test at Sydney in January 2014 and impressed later on the same tour at Melbourne in the first Australia v England ODI, when he made 79 off 96 balls. He scored an incredible 585 runs in six Championship matches for Yorkshire on the way to the title, including two hundreds. He also scored three hundreds in seven home Tests against Sri Lanka and India, including a best of 156 against the latter at Southampton. He was named as the ICC’s Breakthrough Player of the Year in late 2014.
2015 – Made an encouraging start to the year on tour of the West Indies, where he passed 1,000 Test runs in only his 17th innings. He is behind only compatriots Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton on the fastest to 1,000 list. Unfortunately, a loss of form during the early summer home series against New Zealand meant he was fighting for his Test place. It was a battle he lost after two Ashes Tests, but returned to Yorkshire to help them retain the Championship title, scoring a big hundred in the August draw at Sussex.