Zimbabwe name Ballance in squad for Ireland series after Yorkshire racism saga

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Gary Ballance is set to make his debut for Zimbabwe later this month against Ireland (Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gary Ballance is set to make his debut for Zimbabwe later this month against Ireland (Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Former England international Gary Ballance is set to return to international cricket after being named in Zimbabwe's squad for their upcoming three-match T20I series against Ireland.

Ballance signed a two-year deal with Zimbabwe in December, having been released early from his county contract with Yorkshire following the racism scandal. The 33-year-old admitted calling his former teammate Azeem Rafiq a "P***" after an independent investigation found that Rafiq was a victim of "racial harassment and bullying" during his time at Yorkshire.

In August last year, Ballance met Rafiq in person to apologise for his use of "unacceptable" and "racist" language and, having not played professionally since September 2021, is set to return to action for the country of his birth later this month.

Ballance was born in Harare and represented Zimbabwe at the 2006 Under 19s World Cup, before moving to England. After initially turning out for Derbyshire, Ballance joined Yorkshire in 2008 and went on to play 23 Test matches and 16 ODIs for England between 2013 and 2017.

Zimbabwe, whose coach Dave Houghton is married to the cousin of Ballance's father, made four changes to the squad which competed in the recent T20 World Cup.

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Star man Sikandar Raza has been permitted to skip the series and represent Dubai Capitals in the inaugural ILT20 instead. Fast bowler Blessing Muzarabani misses out with a quadriceps injury, while wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva and batter Milton Shumba have been dropped.

Alongside Ballance, Tadiwanashe Marumani, Innocent Kaia and Victor Nyauchi have also been called up to the squad. And Ballance says the chance to play for Zimbabwe has given him a "new-found passion and excitement for the game".

"I'm thrilled to be joining Zimbabwe Cricket and can't wait to start work with some great coaches and talented players," Ballance said.

"The opportunity to represent Zimbabwe has given me a new-found passion and excitement for the game. I have kept in touch with a number of people within Zimbabwe cricket over the years and it has been great to watch their recent progress especially."

Matthew Cooper

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