sport

Captain Cook so relieved

England captain Alastair Cook said he was relieved to make a significant contribution with the bat despite falling just short of his first Test century in 27 attempts on day one against India in Southampton.

Cook made 95 before edging Ravindra Jadeja behind to lose his wicket in frustrating fashion, but it was a welcome return to form after scores of 5, 10 and 22 in the series to date.

"If you'd have offered me that at the beginning of the day, of course I'd have taken it," he told Sky Sports.

"I'm disappointed because it adds to the innings without a hundred, but I've batted OK and it's nice to finally contribute.

"It's a long time since I've been able to contribute to the England team and that's what's hurt me more than anything. When you don't score runs, you try to talk about it and lead but if you feel like you're personally not doing anything, it's a hard place to be.

"You always back yourself. I know I can score runs. To score a 90-odd is a good feeling."

Cook's innings, together with Gary Ballance's 104 not out, put England in a strong position, although the skipper was grateful for Jadeja putting down a catch when he was still on 15.

"There was a bit of grinding - to be at 247-2 has given us a platform to go big in this first innings," said Cook, who also edged the first ball of the game just short of the slips.

"There was a bit of a lapse from what I'm trying to do and it was nice to get a wake-up call to not do it again."

Cook hailed the support he had received during a period when his batting form had slumped in line with England's fortunes as a team, leading several pundits to call for him to be dropped or stripped of the captaincy.

"I can't tell you how much I wanted to score a hundred," he added.

"The support I have had throughout this period, which I'm not through yet but it's a little step in the right direction, has been great.

"When you haven't scored runs for a long time it's only natural to be nervous and only natural to want it even more."

Cook's innings took him to 8,257 runs in Test cricket, passing former team-mate Kevin Pietersen and ex-skipper David Gower to move to third place in the list of all-time England run scorers.

Pietersen, who has had no involvement with England since the disastrous Ashes tour, was among the high-profile voices calling for Cook to stand down as captain before the start of the third Test.

During Cook's innings, Pietersen pointedly praised Cook's efforts as a batsman, commenting: "Yowza...Cook getting some today! Brilliant for Alastair the batsman..."

But the 34-year-old did also tweet a message of congratulations after Cook's dismissal.

"Under the amount of pressure Cook was under, that was quite brilliant! Really happy he got runs. Well done, AC #95" said Pietersen.

Meanwhile, Cook himself was focused on his team making the most of the positive position they had worked themselves into on a pitch which offered little assistance to the India bowlers.

"We're in a good position after day one," he added.

"It was quite slow at times because they bowled defensively at us. There are lot of miles in their legs but we'll have to earn the right again on Monday and hopefully accelerate later."