Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton 'wouldn't turn' Gary Ballance away

Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton believes former England batter Gary Ballance could be tempted into switching his allegiance to his birth country.

Harare-born Ballance represented Zimbabwe at under-19 level but moved to England to complete his schooling and went on to don the Three Lions in 23 Tests and 16 one-day internationals between 2014 and 2017.

Last year he was suspended from selection indefinitely by the England and Wales Cricket Board after being accused by former Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq of racial abuse. The 32-year-old met Rafiq in London last week to apologise in person for his "unacceptable" language.

The requisite three years have passed since Ballance last wore England colours, so he could be eligible to pursue an international future with Zimbabwe. A long-standing family relationship with Houghton, whose wife is the cousin of Ballance's father, may make the move even more inviting.

Speaking ahead of his team's second one-day international against Australia, Houghton said: "I've known Gary since he was a kid and I speak to him reasonably regularly.

"I don't think Gary would be against coming back to play for Zimbabwe but he's still got to sort out things in England. I think he's probably got another eight to nine good years in him, so if he wants to come back we certainly won't turn him away."

Ballance has two years left on his current Yorkshire deal but has only played three times for the second XI this term, having earlier missed out with ongoing mental health concerns. He would be unlikely to be kept on as an overseas player.

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