Ballance back in England squad for first Test against South Africa

“He deserves to be included and we feel that he will add maturity and experience to our middle-order”

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Gary Ballance has been recalled to England’s squad for the first Test against South Africa, which begins on July 6 at Lord’s.

Ballance’s chances in Test cricket seemed to have dried up as he was dropped after England’s 1-1 draw with Bangladesh last October.

However, the national selectors couldn’t overlook the 27-year-old batsman, who is expected to bat at No. 3 as he has been in terrific form in the County Championship.

Ballance, who captains Yorkshire, is the second-highest run-scorer in the ongoing first-class season with 887 runs in 10 matches at an incredible average of 98.55.

Meanwhile, Hampshire spinner Liam Dawson was also picked, while uncapped pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones was drafted into the side as well.

Dawson made his Test debut against India in December last year, where he scored an unbeaten 66 and took two wickets.

As for Roland-Jones, he made his international debut in the three-match ODI series against South Africa in May, where he claimed one wicket in the solitary match he played.

Keaton Jennings will open the batting with Alastair Cook as youngster Haseeb Hameed was snubbed due to his struggles in county cricket, where he has scored 221 runs in eight County Championship games at an average of 20.09.

Meanwhile, pace bowler Stuart Broad is set to be fit for the first Test after recovering from a left heel injury, while fellow seamers James Anderson and Mark Wood have been cleared to play.

“There is great excitement around the first Test of the summer and with the start of a new era under the captaincy of Joe Root this is an exciting time for English cricket,” national selector James Whitaker said. “Toby Roland-Jones is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance after a strong couple of seasons with Middlesex in red-ball cricket. He came close last year when he was named in the Test squad against Pakistan in July.

“Toby has been in good form this campaign and his ability to seam the ball along with the fact that he can score useful runs down the order gives us a number of options.

“Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance could play his first Test since October. He has been in fantastic touch with the bat in the Championship averaging over 100. He deserves to be included and we feel that he will add maturity and experience to our middle-order.

“On behalf of the selectors, I would like to wish Joe Root, Trevor Bayliss and all the squad the very best for what will be a competitive series against South Africa.”

England’s squad for first Test: Joe Root (capt), Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Jimmy Anderson

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