Gary Ballance has admitted his delight and surprise at his selection for England's Ashes squad.
“I’m delighted to be in the squad,” the Yorkshire captain said.
“It’s a huge honour to go on an Ashes tour. I’ve been on one before, my first tour with England. I made my debut at Sydney, and it was a great experience apart from the result."
Ballance started the first two Tests of the summer against South Africa, but a broken finger took him out of a squad that he didn't get back into.
It leads to some surprise for the 27-year-old, who admits he's had criticism.
"I’ve had a lot of criticism, but that’s part and parcel. Honestly, I accept it and wake up expecting it. That’s why it’s Test cricket. You’ve got to be able to deal with those challenges.
“I was a bit surprised, although I had a feeling there was a decent chance of me getting the call. I’m not the kind of bloke who will say ‘I’m definitely going to be in’.
“But it’s always good news to get the phone call because I’ve certainly been on the end of some bad news."
Ballance has enjoyed a solid season with Yorkshire, but his record with England has faltered since 2015.
Having scored higher than fifty runs 11 times for England, the fact that only two of them have come in his last 13 appearances, raised eyebrows about his inclusion for the series Down Under.
The resulting pressure has left Ballance facing a challenge that he's relishing.
“It will be a massive challenge, probably one of the biggest I will face as a cricketer. I love a challenge and can’t wait," he said.
“I’m going to work as hard as ever. I’m going to have a week off now and then work as hard as I can. When I do go to Oz, I’ll be ready to perform.”
“I’ve batted everywhere in the last few years. To be honest, I just want to play. Wherever I bat, I’ll be happy,
“I’ve played a lot of cricket with Jonny [Bairstow] and Joe [Root], but I’ve played a lot of cricket with most of the guys. It will be nice that it won’t be too new for me. It’s nice to go into a series with some familiar faces.”
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