Ballance, Bell & Buttler dominate for England

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Ian Bell became the latest senior player to return to form after hitting a magnificent 167 on the second day in Southampton as England declared on 569/7, Gary Ballance also hit 156 and debutant Jos Buttler smashed 85 off just 83 balls to dominate against India.

The middle-order batsman started the day on 16 not out along with the opening day centurion Ballance and he accelerated through his innings which included three maximums and 19 boundaries before Buttler demonstrated his raw ability with a superb half-century before Alastair Cook declared late into the evening session.

The decision paid off for the hosts with James Anderson removing opener Shikhar Dhawan for six with the captain taking the catch at first slip. That was the only breakthrough from the allotted 14 overs at the end of the day which belonged to England.

The home crowd at Southampton were treated to a dominant day from the beginning of play as a positive Bell joined Ballance in attacking the Indian bowlers who were facing another long day in the field on the south coast.

Ballance reached 156 before he was incorrectly given out caught behind off the bowling of Rohit Sharma but it was a fabulous innings for the Yorkshire left-hander who has continued his wonderful form for his country in only his sixth Test Match.

Joe Root and then Moeen Ali fell to the bowling of Bhuvneshwar Kumar after lunch but not before Bell reached a superb hundred, his first for 20 Test innings. He flew past three figures with a flurry as he hit 20 off five balls which included a six down the ground to bring up his century as he pushed up the run rate with an aim of bowling at the Indians late in the day.

Not long after Bell brought up his century he lost his partner in Moeen Ali for 12 which brought debutant Buttler to the crease with the crowd eager to see the hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman in full flow.

Despite starting slowly and receiving some luck along the way which included a catch referred to the third umpire, Buttler survived and started to build his innings.

By this stage after tea it was clear Cook and Peter Moores had advised the batsman to score runs at a quick rate and neither disappointed until Kumar had Bell caught for 167 but in truth, the damage had already been done.

Buttler then continued the onslaught and it looked like he would reach a hundred on debut, emulating Matt Prior in reaching the feat in his first Test but the Lancashire man went for one shot too many and he was bowled for 85 by the spin of Ravindra Jadeja.

Then came Cook’s signal to declare on 569/7 with over an hour still to play England found a crucial breakthrough with Anderson taking the sole wicket.

The captain would have hoped for more in a tricky evening session but at least England are on their way to collecting 20 wickets and winning their first Test Match of 2014.

India start 25/1 on Tuesday morning know they have a tough ask if they are to avoid the follow-on and stop England from equalling the series 1-1 going into the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

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Ian Bell
India cricket
England cricket

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