England vs India third Test: Alastair Cook admits poor form has been 'tough' but hopes to have turned a corner with first innings 95

Cook fell five runs short of his first century in over a year but showed enough to suggest he was returning to form

Alastair Cook can reflect with satisfaction that he is back in the runs, and England have surely discovered a linchpin number three in Gary Ballance.

Cook fell five runs short of a first century in 28 Test innings on day one against India at the Ageas Bowl, where Ballance closed unbeaten on 104 out of 247 for two.

England therefore have power to add as they seek to take control of this third Investec Test, in a series they trail 1-0 with three to play.

Cook restated his case to stay on as captain and opener, sharing his and Sam Robson's first half-century stand together and then one of 158 with Ballance for the second wicket.

"You'll never silence everyone ... that's the nature of the beast," he said afterwards.

"But what it's done for me is (it's) given me some confidence that my batting is going in the right direction again."

Cook admits he felt under more pressure than at any stage of his playing career at the start of this match.

"It's been a tough six months, and it's still going to be tough," he added.

"But I feel as if I've got a good attitude to the job, and I can smile through tough times."

Read more: Cook goes a long way to answering critics
'When I was under pressure, I scored runs'

England have invested great faith in Cook and coach Peter Moores to establish a 'new era' of success, following their descent to an Ashes whitewash defeat last winter.

Ballance is another who carries many of their hopes, as the replacement for Jonathan Trott in the pivotal number three position.

Cook is happy to compare the two, favourably as well after Ballance's third century in five Tests this summer.

"They stick to their method," said the captain.

"He [Ballance] sticks to his method for a long period of time, and he knows what it is ... I think that's very important in Test cricket.

"When we made that decision that 'Gaz' was going to bat at three and replace Trotty, it was a big call - because obviously, he bats at five for Yorkshire.

"(But) just watching how he goes about things, you see he's got a very sound technique."

Ballance's chanceless century has helped to ensure England have a perfect position to deploy strokemakers through the remainder of their order to best effect.

Cook added: "He's a really good judge of what to leave outside off-stump - which I think you need - and also he's got other gears to go to.

"We saw, when he got his first hundred (at Lord's last month) how he went there from 80 very quickly.

"So he's got another side to his game ... but I'm quite happy for him to keep grinding them out."

PA

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