Cook pleased Ballance gamble paid off
Alastair Cook will head to Headingley encouraged by England's performance after their Lord's nail-biter, but in urgent need of runs himself as he seeks to lead from the front.
Captain Alastair Cook has all but confirmed the left-handed Gary Ballance will remain in third position in the batting order for England's second Test against Sri Lanka, which will get underway at Headingley in Leeds on Friday.
Ballance departed for a stifled 23 in the first innings of the opening Test, which ended in a draw on Sunday, and recorded a maiden international century in the second.
His performance largely silenced suggestion the more experienced Ian Bell or talented Joe Root fill the void left by the veteran Jonathan Trott, who is currently sidelined by a stress-related illness.
"Gary looked so comfortable there, he's got a very solid technique, what you need at number three," said Cook. "I think you saw it here, when he soaked up a lot of pressure.
"Then he has got that expansion of the game. To me, he looked that fit at number three. We took that bit of a gamble, and it's paid off. He looks a class player."
Cook's form, meanwhile, is in the middle of a slump. The opener fell for 17 and 28 at Lord's – and has not managed a three-figure vigil in Test match cricket since May 2013's 130 against New Zealand.
While six half-tons in 22 innings since has staved off an absolute capitulation in promise, the 29-year-old is well aware of the need to contribute innings of greater proportion soon.
"I'd love a score. Leading from the front as a captain, you want to score runs – that's your job as a batter. The longer it goes on, the harder it gets," he added.
"To score 500 in the first innings is massive, something we've not done for a while, and to score at the rate we did is going to give us a lot of confidence going to Headingley."
The hosts have named an unchanged squad for the Leeds fixture. All-rounder Chris Woakes, who was not selected for the playing XI at Lord's, has been retained.
Opener Sam Robson, all-rounder Chris Jordan and batsman Moeen Ali, who debuted last week, have been included too.
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