England v India: Gary Ballance gets ‘naïve’ error off his chest with another Lord’s century

Batsman puts raucous night out in Nottingham behind him with assured innings

Lord’s

At the end of a week in which he was photographed without his T-shirt in a nightclub, Gary Ballance stuck out his chest again to score a brilliant century that ensured England still have a foothold in this match.

Ballance admitted he had been “naïve” to allow himself to be caught on a raucous night out in Nottingham after last week’s drawn first Investec Test at Trent Bridge, with the evidence appearing in the newspapers on Thursday morning. But he responded in the only way possible with a 110 that was the bedrock of England’s 219 for 6, which leaves them still 76 short of India’s first innings total.

Ballance also backed England’s beleaguered captain Alastair Cook, who scored only 10, to follow his lead with the bat very soon.

Asked whether the innings was the most fun he had had this week, Ballance smiled and said: “Probably. I did not see that coming and it was a bit embarrassing. I was probably a bit naïve but I didn’t really break any rules and I was just having fun after a Test match.

“I’ve learned from that and I probably won’t do it again. It’s great to score runs and even better after what happened. It’s a great feeling.

“I felt a bit of pressure turning up on day one with what had happened but everyone around me was very supportive. The coaches, the players, my family were all backing me. They said that sometimes mistakes happen and that I have to learn and move on. Luckily I took a catch early in the Indian innings and that calmed me down a lot.

“Knowing what Alastair Cook is like, he will still be very positive and upbeat. Fantastic cricketer and captain and his scores prove that.

“He will be disappointed not to get a score today but he will keep working hard and trying to put in the performances. I’m sure it will be only a matter of time before he gets that big score.”

The attention has been elsewhere this summer but quietly, Ballance has made a hugely impressive start to his Test career. Along with his two hundreds at Lord’s, he scored fifties against Sri Lanka at Headingley and in the first Investec Test against India at Trent Bridge. Indeed, the only Test in which he has failed to make at least 50 was his debut at Sydney in January, when he was brought into an England side who had disintegrated on last winter’s brutal Ashes tour.

Just as he did against Sri Lanka, Ballance made a careful start to his innings before moving through the gears as the ball grew older and the Indian bowlers tired. The stroke he played to reach a hundred was a beauty, a clip through midwicket for four that showed superb technique and timing.

The impressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished with 4 for 46 from 23 overs of impeccable seam bowling, revealed India had studied the poor performance of their England counterparts on day one and made sure they did not make the same mistakes.

Where England’s lengths were inconsistent, India pitched the ball up and were rewarded with wickets and control. England’s scoring rate for their innings was 2.54 runs per over.

“We learned from England yesterday,” he said. “If you’ve got a helpful wicket you have to be more disciplined. In the first innings, they bowled really short and we learned from that. On this kind of pitch, you have to bowl at the stumps if you want to get wickets.

“We definitely want to keep the pressure on Alastair Cook. He is the kind of batsman who, if he gets going, can be very difficult to get out. He can score big runs for England so we have to try our best to ensure he doesn’t.”

Shot, ball and moment of the day

Shot of the day

Moeen Ali is nothing if not audacious. He came in at 113 for 4 a little before tea and hit his first ball for four over long on. It was a replica of what he did against Sri Lanka at Lord’s when facing Rangana Herath – though on that occasion he was out second ball.

Ball of the day

Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave England’s bowlers an object lesson in how to pitch the ball up and let it do the work. Short of pace, he was a constant handful and frustrated Sam Robson into a loose drive to a ball swinging away on off stump which ended in the keeper’s gloves.

Moment of the day

He had looked in reasonable shape, his feet were moving firmly, the bat was coming down straight. But Alastair Cook soon found a way to be out. To his 29th ball he fatally nibbled outside off stump to Kumar and was caught by MS Dhoni. He has scored 93 runs in six Test innings this season.

Stephen Brenkley

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