Another Alastair Cook failure overshadowed Gary Ballance’s second Test century, against India at Lord’s yesterday.
Cook’s early exit apart, this was a serviceable day two of the second Test for the hosts — and better, thanks to Ballance, whose 110 underpinned England’s 219 for six in reply to India’s 295 all out.
“We lost a few wickets early on and to be fair they bowled well, but (Ian Bell) and I tried to hang in and scrap, thinking ’hopefully the runs will come later on’ and they did,” said Ballance. “It’s still a good pitch and if we can keep them in the field a bit longer we can get a good lead.”
The captain’s wretched run of form, however, has become an inescapable issue.
It will remain so until either Cook rediscovers the prolific run-scoring knack which has conspicuously eluded him for 26 Test innings, or his twin responsibilities as opener and leader are relaxed.
Ballance ensured England still have a feasible opportunity to break their run of nine Tests without a victory.
That was in major doubt when, after Cook and opening partner Sam Robson had been dismissed for the addition of nine runs by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (four for 46), England faltered first to 31 for two and then 113 for four.
Number three Ballance, however, was not about to go easily on a relentlessly hot and sunny day.
The 24-year-old made wrong sort of headlines on the eve of this match when pictures emerged of him looking the worse for wear in a Nottingham nightclub after the first-Test stalemate at Trent Bridge. On the pitch, there were few indiscretions from a batsman who makes a particular virtue of patience.
He eventually made it two centuries in three attempts at HQ, following his 104 against Sri Lanka last month, cashing in with a sudden rush of five boundaries in nine balls as India’s fourth seamer Stuart Binny filled in overs with the old ball. Kumar then returned with the second new ball to have Ballance caught-behind down the leg-side.
England’s total had appeared a long way off when Cook fell for just 10, to take his unenviable annual tally to 107 runs in eight innings.
Cook’s day had begun with a minor morale boost, when he clung on at the second attempt to a straightforward slip catch — his 100th in Tests — to end the India innings for the addition of only five runs, after Ben Stokes found Mohammed Shami’s edge.
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