Skipper has the public’s support

England captain Alastair Cook batting at the Ageas Bowl
England captain Alastair Cook batting at the Ageas Bowl
James Vince. Picture: Sarah Standing (170455-8793)

Vince relishing ‘second chance’

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The sense of deflation was palpable among the vast majority of the 18,000 crowd.

Then the groans of disappointment made way for a warm ovation as the England skipper cursed himself for the manner of his demise.

Waves of appreciative applause for a man who has been through the grinder in recent weeks.

We are suckers for a trier in this country.

You only had to see the standing ovation at the moment he reached 50 to see he still has the support of the 
public.

And Alastair Cook showed he has plenty of courage with so many calling his credentials into question in recent weeks.

The old addage is that most batsmen will take a score in the 90s before they walk out to middle and face their first delivery.

He surely would have taken a score of 247 for two at the end of day one of the third Test at the Ageas Bowl too.

Yet what would Alastair Cook have given for just five more than his gutsy 95?

That moment where he could have raised his bat in front of supporters who were urging him along run by run to the milestone would have been an opportunity to silence his most vocal critics in the same roar.

But it wasn’t to be.

With hearts in mouths all around 
the ground, the umpire added to 
the tension by even adjusting his trousers before sending Cook on his 
way.

Sport can be a cruel mistress at times, even if the manner of his innings underlined his recent statement of intent in turning his and his team’s fortunes around.

A ball that was not threatening the stumps down leg side had either been pulled away or left well alone by the England captain for much of the day – until he was within just five runs of three figures.

After starting his innings with a few nervy prods, he settled into a rhythm that was much more like the pre-Ashes Cook.

He had one major let-off when he was on 15, edging to the slips, only to be given a reprieve as Ravindra Jadeja shelled a straightforward catch to deny Pankaj Singh a debut wicket.

But he made the most of his opportunity from what many thought could be a pivotal moment in his captaincy.

Even those at the pinnacle of their chosen sport need the odd slice of luck now and again – especially when things are not going your way.

Where Cook just failed to go, Gary Ballance had no such trouble.

The left-hander made his third century in only his sixth Test match and is fast-becoming England’s reliable number three in their summer of uncertainty.

The crowd saluted the Yorkshire man’s efforts with gusto – but perhaps not at the same level of volume had it been Cook.

Quite why a measly five runs makes such a difference is one of cricket’s great mysteries. But you only have to look at Ballance’s air-punching reaction at securing his third Test century less than an hour later, to know when a batsmen tells you it doesn’t really matter that much, he’s not telling the truth.