England made an ideal start to their third Test against India on Sunday, completely controlling proceedings at the Rose Bowl.
After some fantastic individual performances with the bat, England closed play 247 for 2 after Day 1, with plenty of encouragement to take from a stellar performance.
Here’s England’s scorecard on a near-perfect day for Alastair Cook’s men:
|England Innings—Third Test, Day 1|
|Cook||b Jadeja, c Dhoni||95|
|Robson||b Shami, c Jadeja||26|
|EXTRAS||0nb 0w 1b 5lb||6|
|Total||for 2 (90.0 overs)||247|
Having won the toss, captain Cook elected to bat first on a very generous surface in Southampton, and it turned out to be one of his better decisions as England skipper.
Cook has come under mass criticism in the England shirt of late, but he answered his doubters in the best-possible fashion on Sunday—letting his bat do the talking.
Opening with Sam Robson, Cook came perilously close to ending his 14-month wait for an international century, chalking up 95 before he edged a Ravindra Jadeja delivery to Mahendra Dhoni.
It could have all gone wrong for the captain early on, though, when Jadeja dropped a relatively simple catch to claim his wicket at third slip with Cook on 15, as Sky Sports' highlights show below:
For the most part, though, Cook was back to his solid best. It was fantastic to see him batting freely once again, making former critics eat their words, including Piers Morgan:
Speaking after his innings, Cook reflected on a good day’s work at the crease, but admitted that being just five runs away from three figures was frustrating, per Stephan Shemilt of BBC Sport:
I was desperate to score runs. I was as fresh as I have ever been and now I have feel I have contributed to the team. Mixed feelings sums it up quite well. If you'd offered me 95 before the game, I would have snapped your hand off, but I'm still frustrated not to get a hundred. I wanted to go down fighting and sometimes you do need a bit of luck. I haven't always had that.
Having scored just five runs in the first Test together with hauls of 10 and 22 in the second, the pressure was mounting on Cook to hand in his resignation as skipper, but he’s just bought himself some valuable time.
Cook’s dismissal ended a partnership of 158 with Gary Ballance, who came in for Robson after his exit for 26 and made the crease his own.
Ballance handled everything that the Indian unit was throwing at him and romped to his third international century in just six Tests, per BBC TMS:
Where the 24-year-old fits in England’s batting order has come under speculation of late, but he more than proved that No. 3 is perfect for him, as journalist Freddie Wilde remarked upon:
Ballance ended the day 104 not out, and will come back Monday with Ian Bell on 16 looking to continue his rich vain of form.
Much of that will depend on how India approach Day 2, as their bowling simply wasn’t up to scratch on Sunday.
The visitors were seriously missing the services of Ishant Sharma at the Rose Bowl, who was forced to pull out through injury.
Though Mohammed Shami looked dangerous, claiming the wicket of Robson and coming close to ending Cook’s innings several times, the rest of the unit failed to get to grips with England, and they need a big step up on Monday if they’re to make any impact on the third Test.
For England, though, the most important part of Sunday’s impressive innings was seeing Cook regain both support and his confidence.
His call to Ballance and Bell will be more of the same, as the English look to lay the foundations to level the Test series up at 1-1.