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Ballance sets his sights on Ashes spot
Yorkshire's Gary Ballance has revealed his primary target for this winter's Ashes tour as England prepare to jet out to Australia tomorrow evening.
"Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to the whole experience. I think it will be a good tour, but a tough one at the same time," said the prolific left-hander. "My main aim is to work as hard as I can. Then we'll see what happens."
Ballance is in England's squad to challenge for the number six spot in the batting order following a summer which saw him top 1,000 LV= County Championship runs for the first time.
Captain Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell are all inked into the team for next month's first Test at Brisbane.
But Ballance, who turns 24 on day two of the first Test on November 22, is battling against White Rose colleague Jonny Bairstow, back-up opener Michael Carberry and all-rounder Ben Stokes to supplement them.
"To be part of an Ashes tour is something I'm really looking forward to," he continued. "I'm really excited. I think it's slowly started to sink in. It's what you play cricket for - to play at the highest level.
"We've got about a month in Australia before the first Test, including the three warm-up games, and everybody's hopefully going to get some good form leading into Brisbane. There will be a lot of hard work done in the nets and in the middle.
"I think I'll be seeing it as having to get some runs to give myself a chance. There's obviously some brilliant players who have performed consistently over the years who will be confident of their places.
"But hopefully I'll get a chance in the warm-up games and I can get some runs and do as much as I can."
England head into the series as holders of the Ashes after their 3-0 success during the most recent summer - a win Ballance believes can be repeated.
"It's going to be tough playing in Australian conditions. The wickets will be a bit quicker I think. But I'm sure if everyone plays to their ability, then we'll give ourselves a very good chance of winning the series," he said.
England's first warm-up match is against a Western Australia XI next Thursday.
If Zimbabwe-born Ballance is involved in the one-day and Twenty20 series in the New Year, he will be Down Under for just over three months.
It is a long tour, but there will be plenty of things to look forward to for the player who toured Australia with the Lions squad last winter, including a return to one of his favourite grounds.
"A Boxing Day Test at Melbourne with nearly 100,000 people in is what you dream of playing in. Just to be there, even if I don't play, will be a great experience," he added.
England's other warm-up matches before the first Test are against Australia A at Hobart and New South Wales at Sydney.