England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 1st day July 27, 2014

Cook, Ballance put England well ahead


England 247 for 2 (Cook 95, Ballance 104*) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Play 01:36
Kimber: Cook lucky, Pankaj unlucky

Alastair Cook took a step towards quelling some of the criticism he has been bombarded with recently by making his highest score since his last Test hundred in May 2013. He laid a foundation for England's large first-innings score during a 158-run association with Gary Ballance, who, unlike his captain, is enjoying a productive summer and scored his third hundred to go with two half-centuries in only six Tests. Cook now needs his tactical decisions to pay off to earn breathing space on the captaincy front.

Cook had the sort of fortune an under-pressure captain needs when chasing a 0-1 deficit in the series. England's first break came before play began when India's Man of the Match at Lord's, Ishant Sharma, was ruled out with an ankle injury. Cook then won the toss on a pitch that left MS Dhoni undecided about whether to bat or bowl had he called correctly, but the hard and grassy surface offered limited swing and seam movement to India's quicks. Both those pieces of luck would have amounted to naught, however, had Ravindra Jadeja held a straightforward chance. Cook was on 15 at the time and the debutant Pankaj Singh, Ishant's replacement, missed out on a maiden Test wicket.

The first delivery of the match was perfect from Bhuvneshwar. He pitched on a good length around off, drew the batsman forward, wobbled the ball a bit and found the edge. Cook looked behind to see the chance fall short of second slip, an immediate sign it was going to be his day.

Sam Robson's footwork was more assured at the start, his judgement astute as he left deliveries that swung away and seamed into him. As his confidence grew, Robson pressed forward and drove on the up to the cover boundary, a shot he repeated twice more in his innings.

Unlike at Lord's, Cook stood outside his crease in this innings to counter Bhuvneshwar's swing. It worked, and when he was beaten the ball missed the edge. The plan was trickier to execute against the taller Pankaj, though. He bent a few deliveries back into Cook, before getting one to straighten off a good length. Pankaj had taken 300 first-class wickets before getting a Test debut, and he could have had a wicket in his third over had Jadeja been competent at third slip. It was the fifth catch India had put down in the cordon this series.

India bowled no short deliveries or bouncers in the first hour. England's openers had been given no opportunities to cut or pull, though Cook had been offered a few balls on his pads to clip through square. With Cook settling in, however, Dhoni took out his gully, and soon watched an edge off Shami fly at catchable height to the third-man boundary.

Robson fell against the run of play. He had been moving forward smoothly until he stayed in his crease and prodded away at Shami's outswinger. This time Jadeja held the catch at third slip, ending the partnership on 55, England's first 50-plus opening in ten innings.

Cook brought up his half-century soon after lunch, pulling a short delivery from Shami for two. There was no release of emotion as he received a standing ovation. Instead, he pulled the next short one for four.

India bowled too straight or too wide at Ballance, who scored his first ten runs between backward square and midwicket and then began hitting the ball through point whenever he had width, which was often. Cook and Ballance picked on the shorter lengths from India's quicks, and while Jadeja's left-arm spin offered India economy, it did not do much else apart from ensuring an outstanding over rate.

India had another opportunity to dismiss Cook, but Shami missed a direct hit from mid-on, and when the batsman scored his 70th run he moved past David Gower to take third spot among England's leading run-scorers.

While Cook scored at a careful pace, Ballance gave England an infusion of energy in the last half hour before tea. He was adept at putting away anything wide, and peppered the arc between third man and cover with a series of cuts and drives to help England score 108 in the second session.

India's seamers frequently bowled poor lines and lengths - too straight and too short. Ballance fed off deliveries on his hips, while Cook moved into the nineties with a controlled pull off a half-tracker from Shami. All day Jadeja had bowled over the wicket to the left-hand batsmen with a packed leg-side, trying to stifle them, but Ballance was able to step out and surgically place a drive through midwicket.

Cook was also dismissed against the run of play. On 95, he went back to pull a delivery from Jadeja that was sliding down leg and Dhoni caught the bottom edge. The Ageas Bowl had been preparing to celebrate Cook's hundred but the spectators rose in unison to applaud the England captain.

India then made an unsuccessful appeal against Ian Bell as soon as the new ball was taken, when Pankaj squared the batsman up and struck the pad with a delivery that behaved like a fast legcutter. Replays indicated Pankaj had been unlucky; Bell had not yet scored.

Ballance had no such worries. He carved a length ball from Bhuvneshwar over point to enter the nineties, and then rode the bounce to cut Shami to the third-man boundary to bring up a hundred. With England picking allrounders Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes, and Stuart Broad to bat at No. 10, India were facing another long day in the field.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vasava on July 30, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    England has scored this much with pure luck....DRS went against India...NO ISHANT SHARMA IN THE SIDE....few dropped catches...still England won't win this test match...

  • Dark on July 29, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    Oh ishant. if you were playing, england would have been all out for less than 150. u got injured and now you might even miss the chance to get 200 wickets on this tour. get well soon and you still have 3 more matches to pick 26 wickets.

  • Cric on July 28, 2014, 15:22 GMT

    I think Cook should consider himself lucky when Jadeja dropped him at 17 and at the time,Ballance was given not out and they laid a good base for England. Now Dhoni has a big struggle on his hand.

  • Varnendra on July 28, 2014, 12:09 GMT

    If England make a big score, which is likely, India will lose. What is the point in playing a chronic failure like Rohit? Jadeja doesn't have the capacity to play as the sole spinner. No spinner in India has. So play two. Jadeja and one more. And Ishant's absence proves even though he was inconsistent he is the most important paceman in India. It is not Shami or Bhuvi. They simply lack the physical clout; they can't intimidate batsmen.

  • Nuwan on July 28, 2014, 11:55 GMT

    Cook & Co. is cooking some delicious broth here it seems... hmmm... smells delicious....

  • Android on July 28, 2014, 11:54 GMT

    indian bowler shami change bowling side and need wkts

  • Rahul on July 28, 2014, 11:21 GMT

    Even the Sky commentators have said the pitch is flat. Ashwin isn't good overseas, so if he'd been selected then everyone would still be complaining. Old ball didn't reverse and Indian bowlers have bowled okay for the most part, without any luck. Only disappointment was Shami who looks worn out.

  • Manoj on July 28, 2014, 11:02 GMT

    In my opinion, England doesn't have flat road like wickets which are customary to Asia. Old Trafford in Manchester has the highest drawn tests % (0.46) of all Eng pitches. But it is only the 11th of the World. Top 10 are filled with 4 Indian (2nd, 3rd, 8th and 10th), 2 Pakistan (5th and 6th), 2 NZ (1st and 9th) and 2 WI pitches (4th and 7th). Dhaka Bangladesh 16th (0.41), Bulawayo Zimbabwe 23rd (0.36) SSC Sri Lanka 24th (0.35) Kingsmead Durban of SA join the list with the 28th (0.32) and Adelaide of Aus 36th. Clearly Aus and SA are having the best sporting test wickets though the case with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is bit different to Asian tradition of non sporting wickets. It is interesting to see if the case is due to these 2 countries performing badly at home too. http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;orderby=percentage_drawn;qualmin1=10;qualval1=matches;template=results;type=aggregate;view=ground

  • Rahul on July 28, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    Flat pitch, so nothing more to say.

  • Dal on July 28, 2014, 10:28 GMT

    Bell will score runs today as all the hard work as already been done. You can never rely on Bell when the going gets tough