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Australia struggle to shift Ballance

Gary Ballance continued his fine form and boosted his claims for international honours with a classy century for England Lions against Australia at Wantage Road.

The 23-year-old left-hander, Yorkshire’s leading run-scorer this summer, struck 104 to help Eoin Morgan’s men to 269 for seven on a day truncated by morning rain.

Moeen Ali also impressed for the Lions, striking 61 from number three, while Nathan Lyon returned 3-80 and Steven Smith picked up wickets in each of the two overs he bowled in the evening.

Yet it was Ballance, who came into the match averaging 64 in first-class cricket this summer, who played the starring role with another exciting demonstration of his talent.

There were 16 fours and a six in his 154-ball knock, which only ended shortly before stumps when he missed a full toss from Smith to be adjudged lbw.

Ballance looked comfortable from the word go, drove strongly off the back foot and was chiefly responsible for ensuring the Lions reached a respectable total in this two-day fixture.

Unsurprisingly, Australia opted to give game time to the players who have missed out on Test selection in recent weeks.

One of those, left-armer James Faulkner, made the first breakthrough after showers had prevented play prior to lunch.

Faulkner had Luke Wells caught behind for 10, but that was to be the only wicket with the new cherry and David Warner was soon brought on as a somewhat unorthodox first-change bowler due to the lack of frontline seamers in the touring side.

Lyon posed an immediate threat upon his introduction and had Alex Lees dropped at slip by captain Shane Watson on 16.

The miss did not prove too costly, Lees making it to 33 before offering another chance that Watson gratefully accepted.

Morgan and Ben Stokes also fell to the Lyon/Watson combination either side of Moeen bringing up his half-century.

The Worcestershire batsman enjoyed particular success against the ineffective Ashton Agar, but departed shortly after tea when edging Mitchell Starc to second slip.

Ballance was settled by that stage and went on to dominate a 52-run sixth-wicket stand to which Jos Buttler contributed only seven.

Both fell to Smith deliveries that failed to pitch, Buttler picking out Lyon at deep midwicket and Ballance exiting in the next over having brought up his hundred in style with a maximum off the part-time leg-spinner. 

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