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Ballance shocked at Ashes call

Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance was surprised by his inclusion in England’s 2013/14 Ashes squad.

The 23-year-old has been rewarded for his fine form this season, in which he has scored 1,000 first-class runs in the UK for the first time, with a maiden Test call-up.

Ballance is one of three uncapped members of the 17-man party, alongside Boyd Rankin and Ben Stokes, while Michael Carberry is recalled three and a half years after his sole Test.

Ballance has impressed in all forms cricket this year, but had not anticipated being in the Ashes squad.

“I wasn’t expecting it and I was surprised when I got the call,” he admitted.

“I am looking forward to it. It will be a great lifetime experience. It will be an honour to represent England at the highest level and it will be extra special in an Ashes series.”

Ballance’s selection owes much to his strong batting off the back foot, which will be key in Australia as the hosts seek to regain the Ashes.

“I expect it to be a demanding tour, with massive interest,” he said. “The pitches will be quick and bouncy and there will be a lot of pressure on us to deliver.

“No doubt Australia will be stronger and they will want to respond after their series defeat in the summer.”

Ballance will be surrounded by some familiar faces with Yorkshire team-mates Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow also in the squad.

“It will be a little daunting playing with some of the best players in the world but I know that I’ll be made welcome,” he added.

“I’ve spoken to Joe, Jonny and Tim (Bresnan) about the England set-up and they speak highly of the dressing room.

“It is very much like a club environment where everyone works hard for each other with one common goal of winning.”

Ballance knows much about touring Australia from his experience with England Lions at the start of this year.

“Being involved with the England Performance Programme and the England Lions has been beneficial,” he continued.

“It gets you immersed in the way England prepares. Having toured Australia with the Lions earlier in the year, I learnt a lot about international cricket and the way the game is played out there.”

Ballance is most likely vying for a place in England’s middle order, but the left-hander does not want to get ahead of himself.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance about breaking into the team,” he said.

“I will work hard on my game, develop(ing) my skills in the nets and practice and see what comes of it. There is a lot of competition for places, which is very exciting.”

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