England vs India report: Alastair Cook falls just short of century but goes a long way to answering his critics

Report on events after the first day of the third Test at the Ageas Bowl

Alastair Cook fell five agonising runs short of a long-overdue Test century, but still helped Gary Ballance put his team in a dominant position against India at the Ageas Bowl.

England's most prolific centurion had luck on his side on day one of the third Investec Test, and appeared set to make it count by taking his career tally to 26 hundreds - 14 months and 28 innings after his 25th.

He answered his many critics with a fine hand at the top of the order, but sadly the century was not to be as Ravindra Jadeja - the man who dropped Cook on 15 - eventually got him caught-behind down the leg-side from a bottom-edged pull 80 runs later.

England nonetheless took control, after winning the toss, to the tune of 247 for two on the back of a second-wicket stand of 158 between Ballance (104no) and Cook.

The England captain and Sam Robson also shared their first half-century opening stand together, at the eighth attempt.

Cook's personal milestone was reward for the "blood, sweat and tears" he cited on the eve of this match was within touching distance after almost five hours at the crease, only for him to fall midway through the evening session, to the 231st ball he faced.

Disappointment was etched on his face, after Marais Erasmus confirmed his dismissal, but an appreciative and empathetic crowd applauded Cook from the ground in recognition he had rediscovered his run-scoring knack after a previous sequence of just 127 in nine Test innings this year.

They had some consolation to cheer soon enough too when the prolific Ballance's third hundred of the summer, in only his sixth Test, duly arrived with a back cut off Mohammed Shami for his 15th four.

Cook, under intense pressure as his team try to arrest a run of seven defeats in nine matches, might easily have gone much more cheaply on a bright but cloudy morning.

He survived when he poked out at a Pankaj Singh delivery from around the wicket and should have become the debutant's maiden Test victim only for Jadeja to put down a straightforward chance at third slip.

Cook often appeared tentative, edging the first ball of the match from Bhuvneshwar Kumar short of second slip and also beaten on the outside edge by Shami before his scare against first-change Pankaj.

He nonetheless went past first Kevin Pietersen and then, after lunch, David Gower to move up to third in England's list of all-time Test runscorers.

Robson was the more convincing opener, with cover-driven fours off Kumar and then Shami, until the latter saw him off with a touch of extra bounce - Jadeja safe this time with the mirror-image chance at third slip.

Cook gradually grew in confidence on the way to his highest score since he made 130 against New Zealand at Headingley early last summer.

On a pitch with pace and carry, England were doubtless relieved there was no threat from Ishant Sharma - the tall seamer who helped to put India 1-0 up at Lord's six days ago but is injured here.

Without him, India needed Kumar and Shami to be at their best - and although the two canny seamers regularly beat the bat, they found precious few edges.

Cook passed his first half-century since the Melbourne Test last Christmas, when he pulled Shami for two soon after lunch, and Ballance established a similar tempo on the way to his fifth score of 50 or more in only 10 Test innings to date.

It seemed both would convert to three figures - and after Cook fell just short, Ballance made no mistake.

Joined by an initially scratchy Ian Bell, with the second new ball taken immediately after it became available, England's new inked-in number three completed his chanceless hundred.

It was an innings faithful to the hallmarks increasingly associated with the reliable left-hander - low risk and with measured acceleration.

In Ballance and thankfully perhaps Cook once again, England have a pillar on which to build the totals they will need to overturn the series deficit they conceded at Lord's.

PA

News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat