Ballance holds head high after ton

Hampshire Chronicle: England's Gary Ballance, left, was thrilled after scoring a century at Lord's England's Gary Ballance, left, was thrilled after scoring a century at Lord's

Gary Ballance was hanging his head in embarrassment on the eve of the second Test, but by stumps on day two he was the toast of Lord's for bailing England out with a battling century against India.

Ballance pulled his shirt off as he and team-mates partied in a Nottingham nightclub after the drawn first match of the Investec Series at Trent Bridge.

It took three days for him to realise the full consequences of his mistake, when camera-phone pictures of him stripped to the waist and apparently swaying were published in the national press.

England, however, decided there was no need to punish Ballance - and he repaid the collective in the second Test with a crucial 110 as England replied to 295 all out with 219 for six.

After another worrying failure from captain Alastair Cook, and only mediocre returns from the rest of the top order, England badly needed runs from number three Ballance and he did not disappoint.

There was barely a false shot in the middle, but he does regret letting his guard slip on Sunday.

"I didn't see it coming and it was a bit embarrassing," said the 24-year-old.

"I was probably a bit naive, but I didn't really break any rules. I was just having fun after a Test match.

"But I'll learn from that and probably won't do it again."

He will swap a Lord's century, of course, for a few drinks in Nottingham any time of the day or week.

"Just to score a hundred at Lord's is amazing really," Ballance said.

"It's been an interesting week. I didn't really expect it, but it's nice to score some runs and put us back in a decent position.

"It's a great feeling ... I think even better after what happened."

Ballance got himself back in the swing on the first morning with two slip catches, and consolidated with his second century at HQ in as many Tests.

"I felt a bit of pressure turning up on day one, with what happened," he said.

"But everyone around me was very supportive - the coaches, all the players, my family were backing me and saying 'mistakes happen; you've got to learn from it, and move on'.

"Once they'd said that, luckily I took a catch in the third or fourth over and that calmed me down a lot."

Cook also needs all the support he can get as his run without a century extends to 26 innings, and 14 months, after he fell for just 10 to Bhuvneshwar Kumar (four for 46).

Ballance, as all Cook's team-mates must, retains faith in England's all-time most prolific centurion.

"Knowing what Cooky is like, he'll still be very positive and upbeat," said the Yorkshire batsman.

"He's a fantastic cricketer, a fantastic captain and his scores over the years prove that.

"He'll obviously be disappointed not getting a score today. But he'll keeping pushing hard ... and I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before he gets that big score."

It was a significant test of England's batting techniques to handle Kumar in particular, as India bowled tighter lines than the hosts had on a pitch still tinged with green but beginning to flatten out a touch.

"They were very disciplined, and came at us all day ... on a pitch that's offered a bit for them," added Ballance, who shared a fifth-wicket stand of 98 with Moeen Ali.

"We fought back well with that partnership. It's a shame we both got out towards the end.

"If we can get two more partnerships, and try to get a lead, on this wicket we can put India under a bit of pressure.

"The third innings is always a crucial part of the game. So if we can get that lead and bowl well, we can push for a victory."

Kumar, meanwhile, still hopes India can eke out a lead.

"The pitch has become a bit slow, especially after the first session, and it is a bit easier to bat on," he said.

"But there is still some assistance for bowlers."

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