The Yorkshire left-hander, promoted to number three, scored 55 off 134 balls as the tourists could only muster 212 for seven before declaring against the Cricket Australia Chairman's XI in Alice Springs. It was Ballance, bidding with Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes to replace Jonathan Trott in the second Adelaide Test, who compiled his maiden half-century for England to hold the innings together.
Stokes and Bairstow chipped in with 28 and an unbeaten 31 respectively on a day of sapping heat when the batsmen struggled to convert starts. Ballance, originally from Zimbabwe, finally showed some form on the Australian tour after previous scores of 0, 0 and 4 to put his hand up for a Test spot against the Australians.
"It would be a great feeling but I don't really want to look too far ahead," Ballance said. "After those few low scores at the beginning of the tour, I've worked hard in the nets and if that chance does come up ... I think I'll be ready."
England are looking for a new batsman following the shock departure of number three Trott from the rest of the Ashes series with a stress-related illness.
"I'd like to think so. To be able to get a 50 today ... I've given myself a bit of confidence so if I do get picked I think I'll be ready," Ballance said of his Test chances.
Local openers Marcus Harris (10) and Steve Cazzulino further frustrated England's efforts at a quick couple of wickets after their innings declaration by reaching stumps at 16 without loss heading into Saturday's final day. Sent in to bat by Chairman's XI captain Michael Beer, the tourists had slumped to 149 for six before Bairstow and Graeme Swann (29) added 49 for the seventh wicket.
With temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius on Friday and a high of 39C (102 Fahrenheit) forecast for Saturday it was a trying day for the tourists.
A slow pitch and outfield hampered scoring and Ballance began his innings when conditions were toughest, albeit against an attack which collectively equated to a Sheffield Shield second string. Stokes played fluently in his 54-ball knock and Bairstow appeared to have the measure with 31 off 77 balls.
Ballance's innings ended in anti-climax when driving leg-spinner James Muirhead to mid-on and barely getting past his partner Ian Bell before the throw came in to run him out.