England captain Alastair Cook fought his way to another gritty half-century as home team reached a comfortable 148 for one against India at lunch, on the second of the fifth and final cricket Test, at the Oval in London on Saturday.
At the break, Cook was unbeaten on 56 with in-form Gary Ballance undefeated on 40 in an unbroken 82-run stand for the second wicket after Varun Aaron had removed opener Sam Robson (37) early in the day.
While Cook had six fours in 140 balls, fellow left-hander Ballance was more attacking having eight hits to the fence in 66 balls.
The Indian bowlers toiled hard but the conditions had changed quite a bit from the first day. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (0-37), Varun Aaron (1-49), Ishant Sharma (0-23) and Stuart Binny (0-22) were all deployed to make use of a semi-new ball but only the one wicket was all that came through in the session. Ravichandran Ashwin (0-9) also bowled four overs.
The day started with England at 62/0 overnight, trailing only by 86 runs. India needed early breakthroughs to force the hosts onto the backfoot with Kumar starting proceedings.
And they did get a bright spark when in the second over of the day – 21st of the innings – Aaron bowled Sam Robson with quick straight delivery that beat the batsman. The under-fire opening batsman scored 37 runs off 70 balls, including 6 boundaries, and added 66 runs for the first wicket with Cook.
It brought Ballance to the crease but he was quick to get off the mark and got a nice start first up to dash any hopes the Indians had of triggering a sudden collapse.