Cricket

Gary Ballance will benefit from England cut

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After news broke yesterday that Gary Ballance had been dropped for the third Investec Ashes Test at Edgbaston, he can take comfort from his replacement, Jonny Bairstow's, turnaround.

A lack of runs and form at number three in the order have finally caught up with Ballance - the most nit-picked, criticised and critiqued England batsman - resulting in being sent back to county cricket with Yorkshire.

After being moved around the batting order at Test level, England chose to keep Ballance at number three against the West Indies and the 25-year-old put in stellar performances to become the third fastest England cricketer to hit 1000 career runs.

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Since the West Indies tour and a high score of 156 against India in 2014 - scoring two centuries in his first two Lord's Test - Ballance has struggled for form and luck.

"Gary was naturally disappointed to miss out on this occasion. However, we feel that he will benefit from some time in county cricket to rediscover his form," said James Whitaker.

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"He has already had plenty of success at international level and, as selectors, we are confident Gary will play a significant role for England in the future."

While Ballance has looked like a deer in the headlights when facing Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, he could argue that simply moving him down the order would have helped - removing pressure to anchor the batting for one.

Number three in the batting order means that you are an unofficial opening batsman who take the game by the scruff-of-the-neck like Ricky Ponting did in the early 2000s, and Ballance showed flashes of this, but in the Ashes, selectors bowed to pressure to make changes.

Even with his first innings score 61 at Cardiff to help give England the edge in the first Test, Ballance has only reached 30 runs once in ten Test innings.

Sympathy from Bairstow

"I am desperately disappointed for Gary,"  Bairstow told BBC Look North. "He has scored a heck of a lot of runs for England over a short period of time"

Bairstow has been formidable for Yorkshire since his last appearance in Test cricket scoring five centuries - the most recent the the last round against Worcestershire - and 906 runs.

The Yorkshireman was the only real option to come into the squad, but it should be noted that he struggled against the short ball against Australia - like Ballance this year - so will no doubt be a target from the two Mitchells.

"For the third Test Ian Bell will move up the order to bat at three followed by Joe Root with Jonny Bairstow coming in at five. Jonny has worked extremely hard at his game and his record for Yorkshire speaks for itself. He fully deserves this opportunity," said Whitaker.

Ballance may have been an obvious choice to drop, but it can be argued that Ian Bell was the more likely option to go having maid 30 runs only once in 12 innings and only 116 in eight innings.

Ian Bell's struggles

The move up to three in the order must inspire Bell who has an average of 39.27 from 22 Tests.

BBC Test Match Special's Geoffrey Boycott believes Bell must take responsibility or he'll be cut.

"If you have played over 100 Tests, you need to take responsibility for the very difficult position of number three," said the Yorkshireman.

"You need to be a bit like an opener. The way England are playing at the moment, they definitely need three openers at the top. Bell has to shoulder that responsibility and go up front. He needs to help the other guys out.

"The selectors are saying, 'if you don't perform at three, you are gone'. I love Ian Bell and his cricket, he is beautiful to watch, but if you don't have the mind or the defensive technique against pace bowling, you are going to get out."

Furthermore Bell is in front of his home crowd at Edgbaston, and if this doesn't inspire him, nothing will and another poor score will see Bell in his final Test appearance.

As a senior player, Bell must stand-up and perform like one and turnaround his form, like Mitchell Johnson and use the strong Edgbaston support to take the fight to Australia.

Ballance, the 2015 Wisden Cricketer's Almanack 'Cricketer of the Year', will benefit from the change of pace and pressure in county cricket and return to the Test side sooner rather than later to form a youthful Yorkshire three to five for England.

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Topics:
Jonny Bairstow
England cricket
The Ashes
Ian Bell
Cricket

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