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Ballance tilts matters in England's favour

By Dave Clark

Gary Ballance’s third century in only his fifth Test and a defiant 95 from Alastair Cook propelled England to 247 for two on the first day of the third Investec Test against India at the Ageas Bowl today.

Yorkshire batsman Ballance, who made 110 in the 95-run defeat at Lord’s last time out, finished the day unbeaten on 104 as England put themselves in a strong position to clinch what would be a series-levelling victory.

The only disappointment in glorious conditions on the south coast was that Cook fell agonisingly short of what would have been a first Test hundred for 14 months.

Gary Ballance and Alastair Cook pictured during a stand of 158 that put England in control on day one of the third Test

England made three changes, with Jos Buttler coming in as wicketkeeper and Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes getting the nod ahead of Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes.

Pankaj Singh, who replaced the injured Ishant Sharma, and Rohit Sharma for Stuart Binny, were the two changes for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, Cook was fortuitous that an edge from Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s first ball of the day fell short of second slip before he was dropped at third slip off debutant Pankaj while on 15.

However, the left-hander then progressed nicely to a first half-century of 2014 that included several trademark cut shots, only to fall to Ravindra Jadeja for 95 – Dhoni smartly catching a thin inside edge down the leg side.

Cook’s innings took him past Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to make him England’s third-highest run-scorer in Test cricket, with only Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart ahead of the 29-year-old.

Ballance celebrates reaching a third Test century, while Ian Bell looks on. The pair will resume with England on 247 for two in the morning

Sam Robson was the only other wicket to fall on day one, the opener departing shortly before lunch for 26 after edging Mohammed Shami to Jadeja at third slip.

Ballance, who added 158 for the second wicket with Cook, was particularly strong square of the wicket during his 204-ball vigil.

Ian Bell survived an lbw appeal off Pankaj that would have been overturned were DRS available before adding 16 in a stand of 34 for the third wicket by stumps.

Jadeja’s 1-34 and Shami’s 1-64 were the only rewards for an India bowling attack who enjoyed some promising moments but failed to maintain pressure for long spells.

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Evening Session

Gary Ballance brought up his third Test ton of the summer as England closed on 247 for two

6pm - STUMPS! Eng 247/2; Ballance 104, Bell 16 – Ballance survives a nervy run off the face of the bat from Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s last ball, and Bell rides out Pankaj’s final set of six to complete an excellent day’s work for England.

5.52pm – After that burst of scoring from Bell, England now look content to play out the day. The new ball is swinging a bit, but both batsmen have looked untroubled for the last few overs.

5.34pm – At the other end, Bell has well and truly overcome that shaky start. He whips Pankaj to long leg for four, then guides two perfectly-timed shots through point from the seamer’s next set of six.

5.29pm - CENTURY! Ballance (189b 15x4 0x6) – Ballance whips Mohammed Shami through the leg side for four, takes two through midwicket off the same bowler’s next over, then – with the field in – carves four through backward point to reach three figures.

5.15pm – India take the new ball and Pankaj thinks he has Bell trapped in front for a duck. Rod Tucker says no, but replays show that had straightened plenty, and the decision would have been overturned if DRS were available. After a couple of reprieves Bell gets off the mark with three through midwicket.

5.07pm – Ian Bell is in at four and lucky not to be out for a duck as the spin of Shikhar Dhawan induces an edge that falls in front of first slip. Ballance is seven runs away from a second ton in as many games.

4.51pm - WICKET! Cook c Dhoni b Jadeja 95; Eng 213/2 - Cook falls five runs short of what would have been a first Test century since May 2013, but gets a standing ovation anyway from the Ageas Bowl crowd. It was a bit of a swipe down the leg side, and replays show umpire Marais Erasmus has done well to detect a fine inside edge.

4.46pm – Ballance beautifully whips Jadeja through midwicket for four – there was nothing the seven men on the leg side could do to stop that one racing to the fence.

4.35pm – There have been more Mexican waves than runs in the last 20 minutes at the Ageas Bowl, but with India bowling tight lines to defensive fields and 200 runs on the board, Cook and Ballance are happy just to play it out and wait for a loose delivery. A wicket doesn’t look any more likely than a boundary. Ballance finally cuts loose off Pankaj Singh to take the partnership past 150.

4.22pm – Cook moves into the nervous 90s with a fierce pull off Mohammed Shami. A play and miss at the next ball suggest a 26th Test century is not a done deal yet.

4.13pm – A quiet start to the evening session, as Alastair Cook takes a couple of singles off Ravindra Jadeja – who it still bowling to a two-seven field.

Afternoon Session

Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance both pass fifty during the afternoon session at the Ageas Bowl

3.40pm - TEA! Eng 186/1; Cook 82, Ballance 72 - Cook and Ballance have turned this into a long afternoon’s toil in the field for India, who ended the session with their bowlers firing the ball at leg stump – a plan that created few problems as the left-handers kept the score ticking over nicely.

3.28pm – Ballance looks to be in full flow as he drives Pankaj through the covers for four, before thrashing the last ball of the over through point with a vicious cut. At the other end, Jadeja is bowling to an unusual two-seven field, with just a slip and mid-off on the off side.

3.18pm - FIFTY! Ballance (107b 5x4 0x6) – Ballance brings up the latest milestone, his personal half-century, with a single past mid-on.

3.13pm - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP! - Rohit comes back into the attack, but is cut away by Ballance for four. Cook then brings up the 150 with a single off Jadeja, and the hundred stand comes up a short time later as Ballance works a single into the leg side.

2.56pm – Ballance is also starting to play with some freedom – a bottom-edge cut off Bhuvneshwar running away for four before helping himself to three through midwicket off the next delivery.

2.37pm – Dhoni calls for the spin of Jadeja at the Pavilion End, but its Bhuvneshwar who beats the edge of Ballance’s bat in the next over.

2.30pm – Cook was fairly circumspect this morning, but England’s captain is in full flow now as he cuts Bhuvneshwar Kumar away for three in an over that costs nine.

2.22pm – Aside from an over each for Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja before lunch, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has so far persevered with his three seamers. There was a bit happening just after lunch, but Ballance and Cook look to be dictating proceedings now.

2.13pm – Cook runs Pankaj through third man for four and in doing so brings up the fifty partnership. 

2.05pm – Ballance flashes Shami away through point for four, then brings up the England hundred with a single through the off side.

1.59pm – Ballance survives a vociferous caught behind appeal off Shami. Replays suggest that it was bat on pad, and a good call from the umpire. The India seamers are still finding some swing, even if the pitch isn’t offering much assistance.

1.53pm – For those of you wondering, Cook’s last Test fifty came in the fourth Ashes Test in Melbourne at the end of 2013. He celebrates this one with a pulled four through midwicket, while in the next over Ballance is fortunate to see a glance off Pankaj fall just short of leg slip.

1.48pm - FIFTY! Cook (98b 5x4 0x6) – The England captain pulls Mohammed Shami and runs two to bring up his first Test half-century of 2014.

1.45pm – Pankaj Singh takes the first over after lunch, and twice beats the edge of Gary Ballance’s bat, before the batsman clips him away for four behind square.

Morning Session

England lost just one wicket during the morning session, that of Sam Robson, as they reached lunch on 78 for one

1.00pm - LUNCH! Eng 78/1; Cook 48, Ballance 4 - Dhoni finishes with spin from both ends as Ravindra Jadeja turns his arm over for the last set of six before the break, but Cook unleashes his favoured cut shot again. England will be pleased with their first session’s work.

12.56pm – Dhoni turns to spin for the first time in the form off Rohit Sharma’s off-breaks. Cook responds by cutting him for four.

12.46pm – Shami’s second spell has been a big improvement on his opening four overs, and he induces a play-and-miss from Cook before the England skipper edges four runs through the vacant third man position.

12.35pm – Gary Ballance is in at three to give England two left-handers at the crease. His stay is almost a short one as he edges Bhuvneshwar just short of first slip.

12.28pm - WICKET! Robson c Jadeja b Shami 26; Eng 55/1 – Jadeja makes no mistake this time, snaffling a sharp chance at third slip as Robson prods at one outside off stump.

12.20pm - Robson pulls out that glorious cover drive again, and with a couple through mid-on off Shami’s next ball takes the score onto 51 without loss.

11.55am - Robson looks nicely settled and drives Bhuvneshwar through the covers again before flicking Pankaj off his hips for four more in the next over. Mahendra Singh Dhoni responds by going back to Shami, whose first spell was only four overs long.

11.45am - CHANCE! – Pankaj Singh elects to go around the wicket to Cook in his first spell of Test bowling, and is only denied a maiden wicket because Ravindra Jadeja spills a chance at third slip. Is that the change in luck England’s skipper has been needing?

11.33am – Robson strokes Bhuvneshwar through the covers to record his first boundary of the innings. England’s openers have been running well between the wickets and picking up plenty of ones and twos as a result.

11.21am – Cook grabs the first boundary of the morning as he runs Shami down to third man for four. Two overs later the same bowler has a leg-before appeal against the skipper turned down.

11.12am – Mohammed Shami takes new cherry at the other end, and Cook plays and misses at one before Robson does likewise at the other end. Both players have played a couple of pleasing scoring shots, however.

11.02am – Bhuvneshwar Kumar opens the bowling for India and Cook is lucky to survive the first ball of the match – an outside edge dropping just in front of second slip. He nicks a single from the next, while Robson gets off the mark with a smart push for two down the ground. Some swing here early doors.

11am – Openers Cook and Sam Robson make their way out to the middle, and we’re ready to go. 

Pre-Play News

10.45am – The full line-ups are as follows:
England XI: Alastair Cook (captain), Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
India XI: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Pankaj Singh.

10.37am – Alastair Cook is clearly keen to take this match by the scruff of the neck as he chooses to bat first, as the sun burns through that early cloud cover. Three changes for England – one expected in Buttler – but Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes also get the nod ahead of Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes. India also have a debutant in the ranks with the injured Ishant Sharma replaced by Pankaj Singh, and Rohit Sharma replaces Stuart Binny.

10.32am - TOSS - England win the toss and elect to bat.

10.10am – Buttler insisted pre-match that he was ready for the step up to Test cricke t . As well as the Lancashire wicketkeeper coming in for Matt Prior, fast bowler Chris Jordan is pressing for a recall, having talked up the importance of home support this week .

9.40am – There is some cloud cover on the south coast this morning – which may provide some swing. The pitch appears to have a tinge of green to it, while the forecast is set fair for a good day’s cricket. Jos Buttler is set to make his Test debut, but will the hosts be drawn into any other changes as they look to square the series?

9.30am – Good morning and welcome to a slightly overcast Ageas Bowl for the first day of the third Test between England and India. News of the teams and the toss to follow shortly.

 

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