Gary Ballance named in Zimbabwe squad for T20 series against Ireland

Former England batter Gary Ballance has been named in Zimbabwe’s squad for three T20s against Ireland this month.

Ballance switched allegiance back to the country of his birth by signing a two-year deal with Zimbabwe Cricket last month after Yorkshire granted the 33-year-old’s request to be released from his contract.

The left-hander represented Zimbabwe at under-19 level but, after moving to England to complete his schooling, went on to play 23 Tests and 16 ODIs for his adopted nation between 2013 and 2017.

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Having long since cleared the mandatory three-year gap necessary to play for a different country, Ballance could now resurrect his international career in three T20s in Harare on January 12, 14 and 15.

His time in England ended regrettably after he admitted to and apologised for using racist language towards former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq.

Mental health struggles also impacted Ballance’s availability and he has not made a first-team appearance since September 2021, but he looks set to feature next week.

His inclusion in a 15-strong Zimbabwe squad is one of four changes to the group that featured at last year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

Star all-rounder Sikandar Raza has been given permission to skip the series as he pursues “franchise cricket elsewhere”.