Southampton, July 27 :
Southampton, July 27 (IANS) An unbeaten 131-run stand between captain Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance gave England the initiative and took them to 186 for one at tea on day one of the third Test against India at The Rose Bowl here Sunday.
The hosts, who were 78 for one at lunch, scored 108 runs in the second session without losing any wicket.
Cook, who has been woefully out of form and his captaincy credentials questioned, sought to answer his critics with a gritty unbeaten 82 off 188 balls.
Ballance struggled initially, especially when the ball was pitched in the corridor of uncertainty, but he battled on to reach an unbeaten 72 off 136 balls that included nine fours.
The Indians bowled without much luck and captain’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to go in with six batsmen and a bowler short might come back to haunt him later in the match.
After Indian frontline bowlers failed to find a breakthrough, Dhoni resorted to part spinners in the shape of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma but that too wasn’t enough as Cook and Ballance went on with their merry making.
Earlier, electing to bat, Cook and opening partner Sam Robson (26) frustrated the Indians with a slow and patient 55-run stand for the first wicket before the latter fell to pacer Mohammed Shami.
India largely stuck to good lengths and sneaked in the odd bouncer, but were left aggrieved with the odd ball that strayed down leg or the short ones that helped Cook keep himself out of pressure.
Experts had predicted the pitch to be fast and bouncy but on the very first morning of the Test match, two-three edges falling short.
The Indian pace attack seemed to lack aggression in the absence of injured Ishant Sharma, who took seven wickets in the second innings at the Lord’s.
Ishant suffered an ankle injury ahead of the toss paving the way for Rajasthan pacer Pankaj Singh getting his first Test cap.
Rohit Sharma was also drafted into the Indian side with all-rounder Stuart Binny being left out.
England too made changes to their line-up bringing in Chris Woakes for out-of-form Ben Stokes while Liam Plunkett made way for Chris Jordan. Rookie wicketkeeper Jos Buttler replaced Matt Prior, who opted out of the series due to bad form.
England 1st innings:
Alastair Cook batting 82
Sam Robson c Jadeja b Shami 26
Gary Ballance batting 72
Extras (b 1, lb 5) 6
Total (for one wicket in 63 overs) 186
Fall of wickets: 1-55 (Robson, 20.5 overs)
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 18-5-50-0
Mohammed Shami 12-2-41-1
Pankaj Singh 13-2-41-0
Rohit Sharma 6-0-21-0
Ravindra Jadeja 13-2-24-0
Shikhar Dhawan 1-0-3-0
Toss: England, who chose to bat
Test debuts: Jos Buttler (England), Pankaj Singh (India)
Umpires: Marias Erasmus (South Africa) and Rod Tucker (Australia)
TV umpire: Rob Bailey
Match referee: David Boon (Australia)