England vs India report: Alastair Cook is heading for the exit as England struggle despite Gary Ballance century

India 295 v England 219-6, day two

Lord's

At 11.56am on Friday, close enough to High Noon to have a chilling pertinence, the end of an era loomed unerringly into view. Alastair Cook, the present England captain, hung his bat outside off stump, edged and was caught behind.

It was not the first time he had made such a lapse of judgement in his international career, it may be the last for some while. Cook probably has one innings left to save his jobs both as skipper and opener.

If he fails in the second innings of the second Investec Test, whatever the result, his time may be up. He is not scoring enough runs, his team are not winning. It is hardly a combination on which gloss can be put, even by his bosses, men like Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, and James Whitaker, the chairman of selectors, who sometimes convey the impression that they see Cook as the incarnation of astute tactician and natural leader.

The captain is the big story, he always is now and there is a sense that it is reaching the endgame. It was his demise that grabbed the attention rather than the superbly measured innings by Gary Ballance, which almost but not quite turned round the second day for England.

Runs would definitely offer Cook a reprieve, a win without runs would probably provide a stay of execution, the lack of both would seem to offer only one possible outcome. Importantly for Cook and everyone else connected with England, there is life in this match.

Gary Ballance cuts a shot for four Gary Ballance cuts a shot for four Ballance, who found a reliable ally in Moeen Ali, guided them from the depths of 113 for 4 when India’s exemplary seam bowlers threatened to seize control, but not quite into the comfort zone.

By the close, the match was indeed in the balance on a pitch distinctly different in tone from that proffered for the bowlers’ delectation on the opening day – and duly spurned by them. England had threatened to gain the ascendancy but India finished the stronger, a reward for bowling of a high calibre, especially by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, which should have made their English counterparts blanch.

The pair had put on 98 when Ali, having played with handsome caution, was out badly when he missed a half-volley from the innocuous off-spin of Murali Vijay. It was almost like being lbw to himself.

Ali has had a reasonable start to his Test career, impressively enhanced by his heroic century against Sri Lanka at Headingley, but his modes of dismissal are worryingly casual. His departure left England to negotiate eight uncomfortable overs, which was beyond them. Ballance, who is anything but casual, flicked at a ball down the leg side and was caught behind for 110 off 203 balls. The job was not done and England finished the day on 219 for 6, 76 runs behind.

Ballance celebrates his century Ballance celebrates his century True, Ballance should have been caught on 32 when he edged between wicketkeeper and slip, neither of whom deigned to move, but otherwise he played with calmness and control. There is no dazzle about Ballance while he is building his innings and he is an old-fashioned Test batsman in the way that he is prepared to wait for his opportunities.

Earlier in the week, Ballance must have been embarrassed when photographs were published of his excessive behaviour in a Nottingham nightclub after the Trent Bridge Test. Actually, waving his shirt above his head while wiggling his hips was an aspect of his character that hitherto he had kept well concealed in his time around the England dressing room.

A true extrovert would have repeated the action upon reaching his hundred as Ballance did in the evening. He is the eighth player and the third England batsman, after Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott, to score hundreds in his first two Tests at Lord’s, which means that no player born in England has yet done so.

Names are being openly bandied around for who might succeed Cook if either he or the selectors decide enough is enough. Cook’s record is becoming more wretched on every visit to the crease. Since the start of the Ashes series last summer he has scored 616 runs at an average of 23.69 and this summer, which was supposed to herald a new dawn with a batch of new faces alongside old faces which had picked themselves up and dusted themselves off to start again, he has 93 runs in six innings at 15.5. England have gone nine Tests without a win, it may yet be 10.

While there is somebody else, even when it seems there is nowhere to turn, the options are not immensely attractive. Ian Bell is the senior professional but his run of scores, while not Cookesque, make his elevation improbable. He was out cheaply again yesterday, trying to leave a ball which swung and lifted on him, and while he is tactically acute, he is not obviously leadership material.

Joe Root’s name has somehow been pencilled in as a future England captain almost since he made his debut for Yorkshire but though the fearlessness of youth can be mightily effective, taking over in these circumstances at 23 would be an onerous burden. 

Turning to the counties might be bold to the point of foolhardiness but these are times which demand decisive action with a view to the here and now. Chris Read of Nottinghamshire, who played the most recent of his 15 Tests seven years ago, is captain of the county who currently sit on top of the Championship, and a brilliant wicketkeeper throughout that time.

Discussions will certainly have to take place imminently unless Cook does what is beginning to seem impossible. England have it all to do this morning after mucking it up yesterday. Cook was swiftly followed by his fellow opener Sam Robson, who had already been dropped once, as Kumar made the ball talk on a hazy morning after India’s last wicket fell to the 10th ball.

When Root was wrongly adjudged lbw – he got a thick inside edge – England desperately needed a long partnership. It was not quite long enough.

News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us