ANDREW GALE has piled praise on Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance and said that the captaincy has given him a new lease of life.
The club’s first-team coach is delighted with the way that Ballance has risen to the task of replacing him as captain.
Gale moved over into the coach’s chair during the winter following the departure of Jason Gillespie.
And although Gale’s retirement from the captaincy left big shoes to fill, Ballance has responded by leading from the front and by taking his game to another level.
After the first three rounds of County Championship matches, Ballance is the leading run-scorer in the country with 508 at an average of 127.
He has made exactly 150 more than the next highest scorer, Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara, and has hit three hundreds and one fifty in five innings.
Ballance made a Yorkshire-best 203 not out against Hampshire at Southampton on Monday to follow 108 in the first innings.
It helped Yorkshire to a hard-fought draw and left Gale thrilled with the example that Ballance is setting.
“I thought Gary had a very special game,” said Gale.
“We talked before the start of the season about him being resilient and standing up as captain, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
If you have the right mindset and back yourself, anything is possible. I actually felt good throughout the winter and came into this season with a bit of confidence.Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance
“He looks like he’s really got the bit between his teeth at the moment.
“With the England stuff over the winter, he was obviously disappointed to lose his place, but the captaincy has given him a whole new focus.
“You can tell that he wants to lead from the front with his outlook and the way that he goes about things.
“After the Hampshire match, he spoke really well to the lads about having the right mindset and the grit and determination to make big scores.
“He was fantastic at Hampshire and is doing a great job.”
Ballance was dropped by England last autumn after scoring 24 runs in four innings against Bangladesh.
He attributes his form this season to a positive attitude.
“I put it down to having a positive mentality,” he said.
“Sometimes, technically, you might not feel great.
“But, if you have the right mindset and back yourself, anything is possible.
“I actually felt good throughout the winter and came into this season with a bit of confidence.
“For me, it all comes down to mindset and approach.”
Ballance did not play a lone hand in the salvage act at the Ageas Bowl.
After Yorkshire conceded a first-innings deficit of 224, there were also good contributions from such as Alex Lees, Peter Handscomb and Tim Bresnan as Yorkshire reached 399-6 in their second innings before hands were shaken.
“We said that we had to come back fighting after the first innings and show what Yorkshire cricket is all about, and we did that,” added Gale.
“We always say that if we can’t win, then don’t get beat, and it was a tremendous effort in the end. It felt a bit like a win, given the position we were in, and it was a real backs-to-the-wall effort. I was very pleased with the character that we showed.”
After one win, one draw and one defeat, Yorkshire have made a steady start to the season.
They are fourth in the eight-county First Division, nine points behind leaders Surrey.
“We know that we can be better going forward,” said Gale.
“I thought we were soft with the bat in the first innings at Hampshire. A few decisions didn’t go our way, but that’s cricket. We spoke at length about the mindset because it’s definitely not a technical thing.
“On the whole, I thought we bowled well, although we maybe lacked a bit of X-factor, a Liam Plunkett or a Jack Brooks.
“We probably let them off the hook to get to 450 in their first innings and should have kept them to 350-380. At the same time, we’ve had a few injuries to the likes of Jack, Liam and Ryan Sidebottom.
“Getting those three back will be like three new signings.”
Plunkett is in a 13-man squad for Saturday’s Royal London Cup opener at Notts after recovering from a calf injury.
Brooks (calf) is a week away, while Sidebottom (hamstring) is targeting the Championship match at Lancashire on April 19.
Yorkshire squad v Notts: Ballance (captain), Bairstow, Bresnan, Fisher, Handscomb, Leaning, Lyth, Plunkett, Rafiq, Rashid, Root, Waite, Willey.