Ballance: We'll learn from draw
4:38pm Tuesday 15th July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
England arrive at Lord's for the second Investec Test with self-professed belief in their abilities but inevitable doubts too after a patchy performance in the largely unrewarding draw at Trent Bridge.
Gary Ballance happily alluded to both as he assessed England's hopes of ending their nine-match run without a victory under out-of-form captain Alastair Cook, against India.
Quite apart from the paranoia and second-guessing over whether England will find belated home comfort this summer, in the shape of a pace and bounce at Lord's after last week's dud pitch, other issues have followed them down the M1 from Nottingham.
The durability of their hard-worked pace attack, after more than 200 overs to no avail in the first-Test stalemate, is hardly in number three batsman Ballance's remit.
But he is an eye witness, with insight, to Cook's ongoing lack of runs - and England's continued susceptibility to collapse.
The loss of six wickets for 68 at Trent Bridge, and even five for 18 against Sri Lanka in Leeds beforehand, was no match for the innings wrecked by Mitchell Johnson in last winter's Ashes whitewash.
Ballance acknowledges nonetheless England must address their fragility, and cites Joe Root and James Anderson's world-record last-wicket stand in Nottingham as a possible turning point.
"Yes, we had one [a collapse] at Headingley and then one again at Trent Bridge," he said.
"We know we've got to put that right. We're not going to hide away from that.
"Rooty and Jimmy dug us out of that hole.
"I hope we can learn from that and put those wrongs right in this game.
"We had that bad session at Trent Bridge. But the way those two fought was unbelievable."
England, and Cook, have come to a critical point - the captain with only 97 runs in seven attempts this year and no century in his last 25 innings, while his team have badly misplaced the winning habit.
Ballance added: "Obviously we are looking for a win quite badly ... we can take confidence from that fifth morning (at Trent Bridge) and try to build on it here.
"Giving ourselves a chance on a flat wicket, the lads came out of it feeling very confident.
"Let's just hope that over the next few games we can put in a good team batting performance which will get us a big score and really put pressure on India."
Ballance has so far contributed two half-centuries as well as his first hundred, in only four Tests.
He is hoping to make a bigger impact, and is confident Cook too will soon be back to his prolific best.
He added: "I feel like I have brought some good form in, and a few decent scores.
"It would be nice to kick on and get a really big score, a match-winning one to try to get us a win for England and get us going for the summer."
As for Cook, he added: "Every cricketer has been through a bad patch.
"You can't hide away; you've got to be positive.
"I thought he captained brilliantly in that (last) game, and nearly got a win."
All batsmen encounter dips in form, and react in their own way to put things right.
Ballance and Sam Robson are among those unsurprisingly keeping the faith in Cook.
"Some take longer than others....there are plenty of coaches and other players who will support you," said Ballance.
"Cooky is very positive and upbeat, and you saw how he is enjoying his cricket when he had a bowl at Trent Bridge.
"I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he gets that score."
Robson speaks from an uncannily similar, supportive script.
Asked about his captain and opening partner in a Sky Sports News interview, he said: "He's a champion player ... world-class, one of England's best-ever batsmen.
"There's no doubt about that, we're all aware of that.
"All the close followers of the game, who know what they're talking about, realise that as well.
"There is no doubt that runs are not far away for him.
"It's a tough game and it's easy to get out, and a few things haven't gone his way in the last couple of Tests - from what I can see at the other end.
"(But) runs are around the corner for him, there's no doubt about it."
Like Ballance, Robson - another of England's young guns to bank a maiden Test century this summer - believes Root and Anderson's much-needed rearguard could just inspire the collective.
He said: "We feel like we've got a little bit of momentum....sometimes special things like that just have a way of sparking something in a team.
"I think the partnership between Jimmy and Joe was massive.
"Then there were those few wickets on the final morning....an hour in, some of us thought something special was going to happen.
"We feel like we're on the right track, and hope we can put it all together."