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By Shiamak Unwalla
Jul 27, 2014
England finished in a commanding position on Day One of the third Test against India at Southampton thanks to a huge partnership between skipper Alastair Cook and No 3 batsman Gary Ballance. The Indian bowlers toiled endlessly, but were unable to make consistent breakthroughs as a mixture of dropped catches, close decisions and missed run-out chances meant that England lost just two wickets when they could have lost far more.
Ballance scored his third Test hundred in six games, and also his second ton in a row after his 110-run knock at Lord’s. He combined with Cook — who fell just five runs short of his 26th Test ton — for a 158-run stand to put the hosts in a very comfortable position.
Earlier, Cook built on his good start by getting to his highest score in 28 innings, when he crossed 72. Along with Ballance, Cook added over 100 runs to put England firmly ahead at Tea. Ballance scored a resolute fifty as well to continue an impressive start to his Test career. The left-hander started sedately but grew in confidence and towards the end of the session started scoring freely, finding the fence almost at will.
On a day when Pankaj Singh made his debut and nearly made Cook his maiden wicket, Cook went past milestone after milestone to have his best day on the field in a very long time. Cook went past David Gower to climb up to the third spot in England’s all-time run-scorer after having gone past Kevin Pietersen on the list in the first session. Cook now occupies the third position behind Alec Stewart and Graham Gooch. Cook also scored his 2,000th run as captain during the course of his fifty.
England went to lunch at a decent score of 78 for one against India. For the first time in the series, the English batting looked solid in the face of some probing Indian pace bowling, despite losing a wicket before lunch. Cook looked very secure for his unbeaten 48 runs, and seemed on the way to finding his lost form.
India’s opening bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami got some good movement off the pitch, but a complete lack of pace in the surface meant that neither bowler was able to trouble the batsmen too much. The introduction of Pankaj, making his way for an injured Ishant Sharma, brought about an edge from Cook, but it was put down by Ravindra Jadeja at third slip.
England won the toss and chose to bat. India’s star of the second Test, Ishant Sharma, missed out due to injury. Rajasthan pacer Pankaj made his Test debut for India four years after appearing in a One-Day International (ODI).
England 247 for 2 (Alastair Cook 95, Gary Ballance 104*; Mohammed Shami 1 for 62, Ravindra Jadeja 1 for 34) vs India.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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