SOUTHAMPTON, England, (Reuters) – Under-fire captain Alastair Cook at last found his form but fell for 95 as he and century-maker Gary Ballance put England in control at the end of the first day of the third test against India yesterday.
Ballance was unbeaten on 104, which included 15 fours, and beleaguered captain Cook silenced his critics for now with a battling innings as England reached an imposing 247-2 at the close.
Ian Bell (16) and Ballance safely negotiated the new ball to ensure both will resume today.
Cook, in dreadful recent form which has led to calls from former England captains Michael Vaughan, Geoffrey Boycott, Mike Atherton and Kevin Pietersen for him to resign the captaincy, had a huge slice of luck on 15 when he was dropped by Ravindra Jadeja at slip.
He survived to add 158 with Ballance, who joined an elite group of players with his third century in five tests for England.
Cook batted with few alarms and was looking good for his 26th test century, when he feathered a faint edge down the leg side off Jadeja and was caught by Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.
He did however reach a personal landmark as he overtook David Gower and moved into third place in the list of England’s all-time leading test run scorers, on 8,257. Graham Gooch leads the list with 8,900 from Alec Stewart on 8,463.
Cook made the brave call to bat after winning the toss and despite a hint of movement for the seamers, they lost only Sam Robson for 26 to Mohammed Shami before lunch.The afternoon session belonged to England, although India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar and debutant Pankaj Singh began to find their length with much greater consistency.
Ballance survived a close caught behind call and several deliveries whistled just past the outside edge, before he and Cook reached tea with an unbroken partnership of 131.
Ballance had upped the scoring rate and he reached his century with a perfectly-timed boundary.
He was well backed by Bell, who himself was fortunate to still be there at the close following a close leg before shout off Singh.
India, who lead the five-match series 1-0, made two changes from their victory at Lord’s as Singh replaced the injured Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma came in for Stuart Binny.
England themselves opted for three changes as Jos Buttler took the place of Matt Prior, Chris Jordan replaced Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes was preferred to Liam Plunkett.
England won the toss
England first innings
A.Cook c Dhoni b Jadeja 95
S.Robson c Jadeja b Shami 26
G.Ballance not out 104
I.Bell not out 16
Extras (1b 5lb) 6
TOTAL (for two wickets, 90 overs) 247
Fall: 1-55 2-213
To bat: J.Root, M.Ali, J.Buttler, C.Woakes, C.Jordan, S.Broad, J.Anderson
B Khumar 22-7-58-0, M Shami 18-3-62-1, P Singh 20-3-62-0, R Sharma 6-0-21-0, R Jadeja 22-6-34-1, S Dhawan 2-0-4-0