Ballance warm-up 50 puts him in pole position to replace Trott

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England’s latest attempts to put willow to leather in a convincing fashion fell short on the first morning of their tour match against Cricket Australia’s Chairmen XI, but they had second Test auditionee Gary Ballance to thank for passing the 200 mark for the first time since the start of the first Test.

The Zimbabwe-born Yorkshireman boosted his chances of inclusion at Adelaide, where England are 5/2 to win, by being the only English batsman to pass 50. His 134-ball knock of 55 ended when a mix-up with stand-in skipper Ian Bell saw him run-out.

The tourists finally declared on 212-7 with 10 overs remaining on day one of three and, with Jonathan Trott now absent for the remainder of the tour, it was only Ballance who was able to force his argument for inclusion.

Joe Root is expected to shimmy-up the order into Trott’s number three position, leaving Ballance, Yorkshire colleague Jonny Bairstow and Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes fighting it out for the vacant number six spot.

The batting order for the warm-up match in Alice Springs, where Ballance batted at three, Stokes at five and Bairstow, who kept wicket, at seven, indicated that it is the uncapped 24-year-old who is leading the race for inclusion and the way the innings panned out will do his chances no harm.

Stokes, who will likely lose out in the all-rounder stakes to the resurgent Tim Bresnan, made 28 with Bairstow, who looks to have been relegated to third-choice replacement, was left not out on 31.

Tour vice-captain Matt Prior, who won’t be keeping or skippering the side during this match in order to focus on regaining some much-needed batting form, was unable to log too many minutes at the crease before nicking behind for 19, while Michael Carberry, Root and Bell had a top score of 22 between them.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.