GARY Ballance has today signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him at Yorkshire until the end of the 2021 campaign.

The Zimbabwe-born 29-year-old, who initially signed an Academy contract with Yorkshire at the end of 2007 before making his debut the following summer, has scored over 10,000 first-class runs at an average of 47.53, with 6,899 of those coming for the White Rose in 102 matches.

The two-time County Championship winner, a linchpin in Yorkshire’s batting department, told “It’s great to be rewarded with a few extra years.

"I’ve been here for 11 years now and my aim is to finish my career here. Now I’ve signed the deal I can concentrate on scoring runs for Yorkshire and enjoying the summer.

“I’ve played here for such a long time, I love the lads and everything about Yorkshire, so I’m just focussing on enjoying my cricket.

“I’m looking forward to the next few years. The challenge has become a slightly different one, but there are so many good players, talented guys who have performed well over the last few years.

"They are now ready to take the next step and I’m excited by the direction the club is heading and hopefully it should be a good few years.”

Ballance, who captained the club in 2017 before relinquishing the role in early 2018, has scored 975, 1,164 and 906 runs across the last three Specsavers County Championship seasons, 1,422 across all three formats in 2018. He ended last season with a bang, posting Championship scores of 104, 5, 85, 30, 11, 194 and 60 in September. After extended time off this winter, Ballance is feeling recharged ahead of the 2019 season, which gets underway in just 31 days’ time.

“I’ve had some time off, but it has been a busy few years for me,” he continued. “I’ve enjoyed the downtime, feel really refreshed and I’m ready to go.

“I can focus solely on contributing towards winning games of cricket for Yorkshire and hopefully as a group we can go out there and do just that.

“When you play continuously for so long, you can get a bit stale. For me it was good to get away and refresh the mind.

"I came back really looking forward to it and we’ve still got a few weeks until the new season. Hopefully I can use that time to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for that first game.

“As a group we just want to compete across all three formats. We’ve done so well in the 50-over competition over the last few years and we’ve got through to the knockout stages. Maybe we could go a bit further there. But if we can compete and the guys keep improving, I think we’ll give ourselves a chance come the end of the season.”

The left-hander believes the full-time appointment of specialist batting coach Paul Grayson, who began his new role last Friday, as well as a burgeoning crop of exciting young batsmen, are reasons for optimism ahead of the new campaign.

He added: “We’ve brought in Will Fraine and from what I’ve seen he looks a very good player.

"There should be plenty of opportunities for the lads. Harry Brook came on well last year, Tom Kohler-Cadmore got into the England Lions squad and there is a lot of talent.

"There are also guys who have scored lots of runs before and hopefully they can do it again.

“Paul (Grayson) will be a great addition and I’m very much looking forward to working with him.

"He’s seen and done it all, has been around for years and he will undoubtedly have a positive impact on our batting.

“I’ve never been one to set myself a target of runs scored or anything like that. There’s so many factors that can determine that. For me it’s about concentrating on contributing with runs and if I’m helping the guys to win as much as I can as a senior player, then I’ll be doing a job for Yorkshire.”