Cricket: Lord’s Test in the Ballance

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England number three Gary Ballance completed back-to-back Test hundreds at Lord’s but India struck back with two late wickets to leave the second Investec Test evenly-poised.
The Zimbabwe-born left-hander scored a valuable 110 to help England, who had earlier dismissed India for 295, close the second day on 219-6 – trailing by 76.
Buoyed by 104 not out against Sri Lanka on his last Lord’s outing, Ballance steadied the ship after captain Alastair Cook (10), fellow opener Sam Robson (17) and Ian Bell (16) had all fallen cheaply either side of lunch.
Cook has made 107 runs in eight Test innings this year, and the stretch without a hundred extended to 26 over 14 months after he edged Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-46) through to Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the morning session.
Ballance dug in, however, striking 15 boundaries in a composed century to join compatriots Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott as the only other batsmen to score hundreds in their first two Lord’s Tests.
The second day had started well for England, who needed just 10 balls to polish off the India innings, Ben Stokes (2-40) taking the final wicket of Mohammad Shami for 19, caught at first slip by Cook.
The England skipper was then unable to cash-in with the bat, following a ball angled across him by Kumar and presenting opposite number Dhoni with a routine catch.
Opening partner Robson also fell relatively cheaply, scoring 17 before he was caught behind aiming an expansive drive at Kumar.
Bell, on nought for 16 deliveries, opened his account with a trademark late cut for four off Kumar, who was to claim his third scalp shortly after lunch.
The nagging seamer removed Bell in unexpected circumstances with a short ball which followed the Warwickshire man down the slope from the Pavilion End and had him gloving a simple catch to third slip.
Yorkshire duo Ballance and Joe Root rebuilt with a stand worth 43 however that was ended following the belated introduction of Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin.
Despite replays showing a faint inside edge on to his pad, umpire Bruce Oxenford adjudged Root lbw for 11, leaving England with work to do on 113-4.
Ballance stayed the course, though. He had taken 54 balls to reach double-figures either side of lunch but completed his three-hour half-century in 115 just before tea.
He and fellow let-hander Moeen Ali profited as the pitch flattened out, sharing a 98-run partnership in the afternoon sun which put England in a strong position.
But India finished the day well, part-time off-spinner Murali Vijay bagging the bonus wicket of Ali (32) shortly before the arrival of the second new ball and Ballance being strangled down the leg-side by Kumar for an excellent 110.
Matt Prior (2no) and nightwatchman Liam Plunkett (4no) saw out the remainder of the day without alarm and will return to the middle on day three with England 76 adrift.

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