By Dave Clark
Alastair Cook described it as “a great day for England” after his 95 and a century from Gary Ballance carried the hosts to 247 for two on day one of the third Investec Test against India at the Ageas Bowl today.
Cook unleashed a series of trademark cut shots as he recorded his first format half-century of 2014 and overtook Kevin Pietersen and David Gower to become England’s third-highest run-scorer in Test matches.
The 29-year-old left-hander came up an agonising five runs short of a first Test ton since May 2013, but Ballance – who added 158 for the second wicket with his skipper – reached three figures for the third time in his fledgling five-Test career, finishing the day unbeaten on 104.
“It’s a great day for England,” Cook told ecb.co.uk. “Obviously Gaz played exceptionally well for another hundred, and it’s nice to finally score a few myself.
“It’s nice to go past a couple of players there, but honestly at the beginning of the day I was not thinking that - I just needed a score.
“It’s very frustrating when you’re not contributing to the batting cause, and to do that was great. The extra five runs is a little bit gutting, but more importantly we’re in a good position.”
A 95-run defeat at Lord’s left England 1-0 down in the series, but Cook is confident they can press home their early advantage to square the contest.
He added: “We’ve forged a good position; let’s hope we can rest up well tonight and really hammer home this advantage, get a really big first innings score and really put some pressure on the Indian batters.
“I think the wicket will get a bit quicker. You saw that second new ball carried a little bit better, which is a good sign, and I think if it stays quite warm it should deteriorate a little bit later in the game.”
For Yorkshire left-hander Ballance this was a second century in as many Tests, and Cook is confident England have unearthed a long-term fixture at the top of the order.
“His game is really well suited to batting at the top of the order for England,” he continued. “We all knew about his temperament and he’s taken to Test cricket really well.
“He knows there are going to be huge challenges ahead, but he’s a fantastic player, a really good fighter, and he’s going to score a lot more hundreds for England.”