England skipper Alastair Cook has backed under-fire Gary Ballance to overcome his woeful form against Australia’s left-armed fast bowling battalion.
The Zimbabwe-born No.3 batsman goes into the Ashes series, starting in Cardiff on Wednesday, having scored just 39 runs during the recent drawn two-Test series with New Zealand.
Ballance’s struggles against Kiwi left-arm seamer Trent Boult, who dismissed him three times in four innings, would have given Australian quicks Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc plenty of encouragement.
The 25-year-old also failed to get amongst the runs for Yorkshire with a top score of 29 in two matches after returning to county cricket following his axing from the England one-day side.
However, Cook believes Ballance possesses the mental strength to overcome his poor form and said he’s shown enough qualities in a 13-Test career, averaging more than 52, to justify his place in the side.
“In an ideal world you would like you’d have every single batter playing as well as they can,” Cook said.
“It hasn’t quite clicked for Gary this summer, but his record is fantastic. He is a really good player and he has that fighting attitude to get through this.
“He has his way and he has to stick to his method because that is what got him here.
“He scored a thousand runs in his first year of Test cricket and people forget about that really quickly and we back him to the hilt.”
Cook himself has put behind him a poor run with the bat that began in the 2013 Ashes and subsequently saw him fail to score a century in 18 Tests.
The 5-0 whitewash in Australia was the nadir of his captaincy career but the 30-year-old opener insists there are no mental scars from a series dominated by Johnson who grabbed 37 wickets.
“That has gone, you cannot keep harping on about it,” he said.
“If you went back five months before that we won 3-0 in our own conditions. You have to be very careful not to read into all that stuff.
“It’s a brand new challenge. It’s not what about what happened two years ago it’s about what’s happening now.”