Ballance, Cook Blunt India
England 247-2 (Ballance 104no, Cook 95) v India
Third Test, The Ageas Bowl, day one
Expert View: Farokh Engineer
Lycamobile ambassador Farokh Engineer is covering India's tour of England exclusively for Cricket World.
Ballance scored 104 not out in 204 balls and Cook made 95 in 231 deliveries as England made good use of winning the toss and batting first.
It might have been very different had Cook not been dropped by Ravindra Jadeja on 15 but otherwise the England captain used his bat to issue a riposte to recent criticism.
At the other end, Ballance made his third century of the summer and the pair shared a partnership worth 158 for the second wicket after Sam Robson fell before lunch.
England handed a debut to wicket-keeper Jos Buttler and recalled both Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes to replace Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Liam Plunkett while India made two changes, handing a debut to seamer Pankaj Singh with Ishant Sharma struggling for fitness and Rohit Sharma replacing Stuart Binny.
It was Pankaj who induced Cook to edge to Jadeja's left early on and he ended the day wicketless despite having an excellent leg before shout against Ian Bell turned down in the final hour.
Regardless of Cook's reprieve, the opening hour belonged to England as they reached drinks on 41 without loss, with England's captain batting confidently alongside Robson.
The pair put on 55 together before Robson (26 in 59 balls) edged Mohammad Shami to third slip and this time Jadeja made no mistake.
Cook reached a half-century after lunch and looked set to end a run of 28 innings without a century until, with the milestone in sight, he contrived to edge a leg-side delivery from Jadeja onto his thigh pad and the ball rebounded up for MS Dhoni to take the catch behind the wicket.
No such worries for Ballance, who continued his superb run of form since being asked to bat at three with a first Test century away from Lord's.
Bell survived a testing start to his innings, and Pankaj was unlucky to see a ball that swung back in from leg to hit the batsman right in front of the stumps not given out.
The Warwickshire man went on to make 16 not out in 46 balls.
Shami finished with one for 62 and Jadeja one for 34 while Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, like Pankaj, were wicketless.
India lead the five-match series 1-0 after a draw at Trent Bridge and a 95-run win at Lord's.
© Cricket World 2014
9th-13th July: 1st Test, Trent Bridge, NottinghamIndia 457 & 391-9 dec. (Binny 78) drew with
England 496 (Root 154no, Anderson 81)
17th-21st July: 2nd Test, Lord's, LondonIndia 295 & 342 (Vijay 95, Jadeja 68) beat
England 319 & 223 (Sharma 7-74) by 95 runs
27th-31st July: 3rd Test, The Ageas Bowl, SouthamptonEngland 569-7 dec. & 205-4 dec. beat
India 330 & 178 (Ali 6-67) by 266 runs
7th-11th August: 4th Test, Emirates Old Trafford, ManchesterEngland 367 (Root 77, Buttler 70) beat
India 152 & 166 by an innings & 54 runs
15th-19th August: 5th Test, The Kia Oval, LondonEngland 486 (Root 149no, Cook 79) beat
India 148 & 94 by an innings & 244 runs
25th August: 1st ODI, BristolMatch abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain
27th August: 2nd ODI, SWALEC Stadium, CardiffIndia 304-6 (Raina 100, Woakes 4-52) beat
England 161 (Jadeja 4-28) by 133 runs (D/L)
30th August: 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge, NottinghamIndia 228-4 (Rayudu 64no) beat
England 227 (Cook 44) by six wickets
2nd September: 4th ODI, Edgbaston, BirminghamIndia 212-1 (Rahane 106, Dhawan 97no) beat
England 206 (Moeen Ali 67) by nine wickets
5th September: 5th ODI, Headingley, LeedsEngland 294-7 (Root 113, Buttler 49) beat
India 253 (Jadeja 87) by 41 runs
7th September: T20I, Edgbaston, BirminghamEngland 180-7 (Morgan 71, Hales 40)
India 177-5 (Kohli 66) by three runs