GARY BALLANCE is learning how to be an England player as fast off the field as he is on it after admitting his shirtless shenanigans earlier this summer left him with a “slap on the wrist” from captain Alastair Cook.
The Yorkshire batsman has enjoyed a fine start to his Test career, hitting three centuries in five matches this summer to cement his place at number three.
But it has not been entirely plain sailing for the 24-yearold, who found himself centre of attention for the wrong reasons after the drawn first Investec Test against India.
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He joined a small group of team-mates on a night out in Nottingham following the game and was pictured posing with fans in the early hours, well refreshed and bare from the waist up.
England had given the players a night off between Tests and there was no alcohol ban in place but Ballance was nevertheless reminded of his responsibilities by head coach Peter Moores.
Cook also played his part, taking Ballance for dinner and offering some words of advice – as well as a gentle rebuke.
“Obviously it had come out and I felt disappointed that I had let the lads down before a Test match, which was embarrassing and not what you want,” said Ballance.
“I can’t remember ever doing that before. Cooky took me out for some food with Joe Root and Matt Prior and just said ‘these things happen’ and that in a few days time you would be laughing about it.
“There was not really a telling off – it was more a slap on the wrist and probably ‘don’t do it again’.
“It was after a Test, we had a few days off and you could go and have a drink but I probably had one too many.
“I was nervous what my parents would think but they were very understanding. I think they’ve framed one of the pictures.”
The lack of any incriminating pictures from Southampton following last week’s victory – during which Ballance scored a Test best 156 in the first innings – suggests the lesson has already been learned.
“After we won we just went for a few beers at the hotel. It was great to get my first win and a special moment,” he said of his celebrations on this occasion.
“It was a great feeling because it’s been tough the past few months.
“We’ve had decent chances all summer but haven’t taken them. It’s good to get that complete performance in Southampton, it’s just what we needed.”
While England have had to wait a long time for a win, Ballance’s personal form has been a continued cause for optimism – particularly having been somewhat surprisingly elevated to number three.
The spot became vacant when Jonathan Trott left the Ashes tour with stress-related issues over the winter, but Ian Bell and Joe Root both appeared likelier candidates to move up the order than the callow Ballance.
“I thought if I did get selected it would be in the middle order, but when I got a phone call saying would you bat three it was just a natural reaction, ‘of course, I’d love to bat there’,” he explained.
“I’ve batted three for Yorkshire 2nds and it’s a different level obviously, but I was not going to say no and I’m pleased to have done well there.
“Trotty has done an unbelievable job for the last four or five years, scoring runs for fun, so it was big shoes to fill.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start and getting three hundreds is a great feeling.”