Former county captain Gary Ballance remains a linchpin in Yorkshire’s batting unit against the red ball, most recently being their leading run-scorer in the 2019 County Championship – for the third year in succession.
A left-hander who has had success at international level with England but hasn’t been able to nail his place down, he continues to punish county attacks up and down the land.
Ballance is a two-time County Championship winner and skippered the White Rose for a season and a bit in 2017 and early 2018 before relinquishing the role having briefly spent time away from the game due to anxiety.
It came on the back of a forgettable winter with England as he was an Ashes tourist without playing and was then left out of their subsequent tour of New Zealand.
However, he recovered superbly to finish the season in excellent form as Yorkshire staved off relegation and finished fourth in Division One.
In late 2018 and early 2019, he scored five centuries in as many Championship matches, only the third time that feat had been achieved by a Yorkshire batsman. Sir Len Hutton had previously done it twice, including a record seven.
Ballance became the third fastest England batsman to reach 1,000 Test runs in early 2015.
Born in Zimbabwe, Ballance arrived at Emerald Headingley via Derbyshire and Harrow School and won the Championship title in 2014 and 2015.
He was appointed full-time captain ahead of 2017, a role which brought the best out of him with the bat. As a first-class captain both for Yorkshire and Zimbabweans Mid West Rhinos, he scored 2,302 runs from 26 matches at an average of 63.94, scoring 10 fifties and reaching 100 on 10 occasions.
Ballance joined Derbyshire as a 16-year-old, a move facilitated by close family friend Dave Houghton, the ex-Zimbabwe wicketkeeper and experienced coach, before signing Academy terms with Yorkshire ahead of 2008.
Despite having played for Zimbabwe Under 19s at the World Cup in February 2006, he qualified for England and graduated from their Performance Programme camp to the Lions squad.
During a superb summer of 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, debuting at Sydney as England were series losers.
Ballance strengthened his place in the Test team with some stunning performances during the subsequent 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.
He played for Zimbabwe’s Rhinos during the winters of 2010/11 and 2011/12 under the guidance of Jason Gillespie, who would soon be his coach at Yorkshire.
He scored four first-class hundreds for them before his first for Yorkshire in 2011. In fact, 10 of his 40 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 in October 2012 with half-centuries against Trinidad and Tobago and Chennai Super Kings, though he is playing less T20 cricket nowadays.
He debuted for Derbyshire in first-team cricket in 2006 having only just taken up a sports scholarship at Harrow.
Ballance didn’t nail down a first-team spot with Yorkshire until 2011 when he notched 10 first-class fifties before scoring his first Championship century – 111 – against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in late August. He followed that with that 210 for the Rhinos five weeks later.
After scoring a stunning 121 not out against Gloucestershire in the Championship win at Bristol in May 2012, 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, Ballance captained Yorkshire during a CB40 match against Warwickshire in August.
After touring Australia with the Lions in February and March 2013, he returned to England to enjoy a special summer with Yorkshire.
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. Ballance 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, but he was one of four Yorkshire players to travel with the 2013/14 Ashes party.
Ballance made his Test debut in the fifth 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 a superb 585 runs in six Championship matches for Yorkshire on the way to the four-day 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. Ballance was named as the ICC’s Breakthrough Player of the Year in late 2014.
He made an encouraging start to 2015 on tour in 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.
He returned to England’s Test team in the early stages of the home summer of 2016 and toured Bangladesh and India later in the year, although was forced out of the team for the latter series.
However, the in and out nature of his Test career did not stop there.
He started the 2017 county season, a largely disappointing one for Yorkshire, like a train, scoring three hundreds in the first three matches, including 108 and 203 not out in a draw against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
As a result, he became the first Yorkshire captain to score two hundreds in the same first-class match and went on to play the first two Tests of the summer against South Africa, a run ended by a broken finger.
Still, he finished the summer with 951 Championship runs and a place on England’s winter Ashes tour. But that was the start of a difficult period in his career.
Ballance started 2018 as Yorkshire skipper before missing almost a month’s cricket due to anxiety. It led him to relinquish the captaincy to Steve Patterson.
However, showing his class once more, he returned to the game in good touch with the bat, scoring 109 in a pink ball draw against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, with the hosts including South Africa star fast bowler Dale Steyn in their attack.
He then ended the season with September hundreds in a draw at Nottingham and a win at Worcester, the latter a brilliant first-innings 194. It meant he totalled 906 runs from 12 matches, the sixth best haul in the division. He also reached the 10,000 career first-class run tally in the closing stages of 2018.
That aforementioned Worcester century was the first of his five in five Championship matches, straddling two seasons.
At the start of 2019, fresh from getting married in the winter, he scored hundreds against Nottinghamshire, Hampshire twice, Kent and Essex (three away and two at home).
He ended the season with 975 four-day runs, helping Yorkshire to a fifth-placed finish in Division One. It was a summer which saw them head into the final three games with an outside chance of claiming a third title in six years.
Updated January 2020