Root: Ballance looks a completely different player

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Joe Root has backed Gary Ballance to continue his prolific County Championship form after being selected in England's team to face South Africa on Thursday.

Ballance has earned a third crack at Test cricket after impressing domestically with over 800 runs at an average of 101 as Yorkshire captain.

The 27-year-old has struggled to make a similar impact on the international scene, though, and his inclusion to bat at three has raised some eyebrows.

After starting his career with four hundreds and seven half centuries, Ballance has only reached 50 on two occasions in his past 11 England matches.

He struggled against the pace attacks of New Zealand and Australia in 2015 and was dropped after two Ashes Tests, before earning his place back last year.

Ballance averaged 27.85 over four Tests against Pakistan but then only scored 24 runs when England toured Bangladesh - leading to him being left out of the five match India series.

But he has earned a third chance under county team-mate Root and the new England skipper is confident Ballance is ready to fire against the Proteas.

"You look at how he [Ballance] has performed this year and the amount of runs he's scored has been phenomenal," Root told a media conference.

"Not just that, when he's scored them has generally been when the side has been up against it. That sort of character is going to be very important for us as a side moving forward. 

"A lot of people ask questions about the last time he played for England, I look at his game now and so do the other selectors, he looks a completely different player and he's desperate to prove a point and go out there and score some big runs in this series.

"I think he's very aware of his game, he's gone away and worked very hard at it and he looks very in control, and found ways of putting pressure back on the bowlers and making sure he doesn't waste scoring opportunities. And in terms of defence he looks more assured of himself."