England batsman under pressure to perform on the team’s Ashes tour.
Stand-in captain Matt Prior has backed “unflappable” batsman Gary Ballance to bounce back and press for an Ashes Test spot after a first-ball duck in England’s opening tour match in Australia.
The Yorkshire left-hander missed a big opportunity to stake his claim for the number six batting spot in the series starting in Brisbane on November 21 when he was out first ball against a Western Australian Chairman’s XI on Saturday.
The Zimbabwean-born 23-year-old has batted twice for England, the other time a one-dayer against Ireland, and has now faced a total of three balls without scoring.
But Prior said Ballance will get another chance in the two remaining lead-up games to the first Test.
“Look, it’s almost reading the stars that that is going to happen,” said Prior after the three-day game ended in a draw in Perth on Saturday.
“A guy makes a huge amount of runs, turns up over here all excited. First knock and gets a duck. I think it has happened to a few of us in the past.
“It’s no great drama, first and foremost. There’s a lot that goes into preparing for a Test series and it’s not just one innings in the middle.
“There’s a lot of netting, there’s middle practices, there’s generally how you are around the dressing room.”
He added that Ballance was “hitting the ball brilliantly in the nets, he looks the part and he’ll get another opportunity I am sure to get a score”.
Prior, who deputised as captain while Alastair Cook received treatment for a back injury, said Ballance took his set-back well.
“He seems another one of those unflappable characters. He had a bit of a wry grin on his face and I think that’s the best thing you can do,” Prior said.
Ballance is one of three players, along with former Ireland paceman Boyd Rankin and Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes, in England’s 17-man squad who are yet to make their Test debuts.
Ballance hit 104 for England Lions against the touring Australians in Northampton in August and posted two centuries in Yorkshire’s county match against Surrey in September.
England’s other key issue in their opening game was the lack of success from pace trio Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Rankin, bidding to claim the third seamer’s spot in the Test team.
All of them laboured, taking just seven wickets between them in the match, and only two in the home team’s first innings.
Tremlett finished with one wicket for the match, while Finn and Rankin picked up three each, with the trio conceding 425 runs between them.
“I think they improved through the three days and got through that bit of rustiness,” Prior said.
Skipper Cook, batsman Kevin Pietersen, spinner Graeme Swann and paceman Stuart Broad are all set to return for England’s four-day clash with Australia A in Hobart, starting Wednesday.