Cricket: Captain cook rides his luck

Alistair Cook banished his demons with a courageous innings of 95 on the first day of the third India test.

Cook, without a test century for over a year, was facing growing calls to quit the captaincy. Picture: Wikicommons.

SOUTHAMPTON, England - England captain Alastair Cook took advantage of a major slice of luck to banish his demons with a courageous innings of 95 on the first day of the third test against India on Sunday.

Cook, without a test century for over a year and facing growing calls to quit the captaincy, was badly dropped on 15 before playing fluently to move to the brink of his 26th test hundred.

"I was under the most pressure I've ever been under as a player and to score runs when everyone is telling me I should stop is a nice place to be," he told reporters.

Cook, who has not made a test century since his 130 against New Zealand at Headingley last May, played solidly before getting nervous in the nineties and feathering a leg-side edge to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni off spinner Ravindra Jadeja.

"I'm delighted that I got 95 but frustrated that I didn't get a hundred," he said.

"It was an amazing reception and I've never experienced anything like that. It was a great feeling.

"You sit there in the dressing-room when you're not scoring runs and everyone is still supporting you but you feel like you've let everyone down so it's nice when you do contribute."

Cook's battling innings, studded with trademark cuts and pulls, will go some way to silencing his critics, with former England captain Michael Vaughan and batsman Kevin Pietersen among those calling for him to resign.

After winning the toss, he gave England an excellent platform after putting on 158 with Gary Ballance for the second wicket as the hosts look to build a sizeable total in a bid to level the five-match series.

"You never silence everyone, that's the nature of the beast, but it has given me some confidence that my batting is going in the right direction and hopefully I can carry on scoring runs." Cook said.

Cook celebrated another personal landmark when he moved up to third on the list of England's all-time leading test run- scorers, passing David Gower on 8,231 to sit behind only Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart.

The captain was full of praise for Ballance, who completed his third hundred in his first six tests shortly before the close to lift England to a commanding 247 for two on the opening day.

"He looks like he bats the same way every innings, he adjusts to the conditions and finds his way. He's settled really well and looks a mighty fine player," Cook added.

"He has a very sound technique and has the ability to go up through the gears at the same time. It's very impressive."