|Ground:||The Rose Bowl, Southampton|
|Scorecard:||England v India|
|Player:||AN Cook, GS Ballance|
|Event:||India in England 2014|
By Andy Jalil at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton In association with INVESTEC
Southampton England captain Alastair Cook played himself back into some form with a battling innings which left him just five short of what would have been his 26th Test century. He has had to endure a lean patch over a prolonged period which has now seen him through 28 innings without a century and his last seven Test innings this summer producing just a hundred runs.
He answered the recent criticisms, which were not without justification, of his captaincy and of his batting with a determined and disciplined innings, over nearly five hours, which will have brought him enormous relief. At stumps England, having had a good day, were 247 for two with Gary Ballance unbeaten on a chanceless 104.
England will hope that this might be the turning point for Cook which will see the left hander back on track and among runs which have already seen him with a third highest Test aggregate for England of 8162, behind just Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart.
Ballances marvellous form has continued with his third century in five Tests this summer in addition of scores of 74 and 71. Along with Cook he put on 158 for the second wicket after Cook had an opening stand of 55. Cook was watchful throughout his innings to the extent that at one point he faced 50 balls without hitting a boundary and later in his innings he had another quiet period of 66 balls without a four.
At lunch, England were 78 for one with Cook on 48 and his 36th Test half century followed from 98 balls with five fours. On reaching fifty he promptly pulled Mohammed Shami to the mid-wicket boundary. Ballance who had earlier in his innings progressed with well-taken singles and twos reached his third Test fifty from 107 balls when he scrambled a risky run which would have seen him run out if the throw had been a direct hit to the stumps.
Not surprisingly, Cooks innings was a product more of application and concentration than spectacular strokeplay. He needed to graft and he did so for the greater part of his stay at the crease. Ballance began to play more strokes after his fifty and hit two fours in an over from Pankaj Singh, a lovely drive to extra cover followed by a pull.
Cook took his score to 81, glancing Ravendra Jadeja for four and at tea he was on 82, Ballance was on 72 and England on 186 for one. Cook went to 90 with a confident pull off Shami for the last of his nine fours and Ballance progressed to 81with his eleventh four to bring up the 150 of the partnership. He was on 86 when India finally ended the stand.
It wasnt a particularly good ball from Jadeja, just inches outside leg stump, but brought him the reward with Cook getting a faint touch for a catch behind as he tried to flick it. England were 213 for two and despite missing a hundred no doubt Cook would have felt considerable relief at such a fine knock. Ballance went on to bring up his hundred with a stylish square cut off Shami for his 15th four.
Earlier, England had lost the first wicket with Shami returning for a second spell. Sam Robson, on 26, got a thick edge to a ball that moved just a little away from him and Jadeja made no mistake this time at third slip.
He had earlier dropped Cook on 15 when he got a thick edge to a ball from Pankaj Singh, one of two changes in the India side from the previous Test, having been brought in for the injured Ishant Sharma, while England had three changes with Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan replacing Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler took over behind the stumps from Matt Prior.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2014 Andy Jalil)