England remain in charge

Ian Bell was unbeaten on 68 at lunch

Ian Bell was unbeaten on 68 at lunch

First published in National Sport News © by

Gary Ballance and Ian Bell consolidated England's dominance on the second morning against India at the Ageas Bowl.

Ballance's century and captain Alastair Cook's return to form ensured England had already made a fine start to this third Investec Test.

But to convert promise into a shot at victory the hosts needed an injection of pace, and Ballance (156) and Bell (68no) provided that in a stand of 142 as 111 runs came in 29 overs for a lunchtime 358 for three.

Bell, fortunate to survive on nought the previous evening when Pankaj Singh might easily have had him lbw with a brilliant delivery, edged the tall debutant seamer just past third slip for four early on a sunny morning and then showed no pity as he leg-glanced him for a second boundary in successive balls.

Ballance upped the ante too with three fours in four balls off Bhuvneshwar Kumar - a cut, leg-glance and on-drive - to surge past his career-best.

Bell, like his captain in need of runs after a lean spell going into this match, greeted the introduction of Ravindra Jadeja by skipping up the wicket to hit him over long on for six into the pavilion, and soon afterwards reached a 99-ball 50.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni tried to slow England's progress with a seven-two leg-side field for Jadeja to Ballance, cutting off many of the left-hander's run-scoring options with the spin, while Pankaj bowled short with men in position for hook, pull or deflection.

England nonetheless managed to kick on, in the hope of giving themselves enough time to bowl India out twice should this good pitch begin to deteriorate.

They could have mixed feelings therefore when part-time off-spinner Rohit Sharma ended Ballance's near six-and-a-half-hour innings in circumstances which suggested there may be help here later for their own all-rounder Moeen Ali.

Ballance appeared unlucky, with no obvious bat-on-ball impact as he went caught-behind to one that turned and bounced sharply.

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