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Ballance, Cook put England in control

England ends first day of the third Test at 247 for 2 as India bowlers keep things tight but lack penetration

Ballance, Cook put England in control - Cricket News
Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance of England share a 158-run stand.
On the eve of this Test at Ageas Bowl in Southampton, Alastair Cook, without a hundred in 27 innings, had said, “History suggests that when I score runs, England have a really good chance of winning games of cricket.” He didn’t get that elusive century on Sunday (July 27), but his determined 95 and a partnership of 158 with Gary Ballance, who made another accomplished century, put England firmly in control of proceedings. At stumps, England was 247 for 2, with Ballance unbeaten on 104 and Ian Bell (16 not out) at the crease.
 
There was more pace and carry than there had been at Trent Bridge, but nothing like the assistance the bowlers got on the opening day at Lord’s. India, who gave a first Test cap to Pankaj Singh – Sourav Ganguly did the honours – after an ankle problem ruled out Ishant Sharma, bowled tightly, but with no real penetration. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took five-wicket hauls in both the first two Tests, was short on pace and markedly less threatening, with little swing in the air and no great movement off the pitch.
 
Cook, who has had little going his way in recent times, made the most of his luck on this occasion. He shouldn’t have gone past 15, as Pankaj, coming round the wicket, induced a thick outside edge that flew to third slip. Ravindra Jadeja reacted a fraction too late though, and the ball was grassed. In the first session, Pankaj was the most impressive of the seamers, bowling at a lively pace and with subtle variations.
 
Sam Robson played a couple of gorgeous strokes through the covers, but India stuck to attacking a perceived weakness outside off stump. This time, it was Mohammed Shami, who combined some probing deliveries with some loose ones, that got one to shape away just enough. Robson played at it, and this time Jadeja made no mistake. Robson made 26, and added 55 with Cook in 125 deliveries.
 
Ballance never seemed flustered and with India spending the early part of the second session darting the ball across the left handers, he seldom went for the bait. India had settled on a battle of attrition, and it was one that both batsmen were more than happy to play. When the bowlers got their lines wrong though, the punishment was inevitably harsh. Cook dusted off the cut and pull, not much seen this summer, while Ballance – who survived a vociferous lbw shout off Shami when he had made just 10 – employed the glance and the flick off the pads as profitably as the upper cuts and drives.
 
Cook reached his half-century from just 98 balls, but slowed down thereafter, whereas Ballance upped the tempo after taking 107 deliveries for his 50. Jadeja was used to dry up runs at one end, bowling at the stumps to a packed leg-side field, while the pacers took turns to try and extract some life out of a fairly placid pitch.
 
Cook’s anxiety became evident once he moved into the 90s, and India made him wait by bowling wide of off stump. Eventually, it was a poor delivery from Jadeja that got the breakthrough. Darted down the leg side, Cook could only get the thinnest of inside edges to it. MS Dhoni just about held on.
 
Pankaj’s luckless day was epitomised by a brilliant delivery bowled to Bell with the second new ball. Pitched on leg stump, it straightened to hit Bell on the pads in front of middle. Despite an imploring appeal, the umpire was unmoved. So too were Ballance and Bell, who unfurled a couple of smooth square cuts at the end of the day’s play. England’s day then, with Cook very much at the forefront.

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