LONDON (AP) — England reached 385-7 to lead India by an emphatic 237 runs at stumps on day two to maintain control of the fifth test at the Oval, thanks to an unbeaten 92 from Joe Root on Saturday.
It is Root's eighth test half century and he will look to convert it into his fifth hundred in 22 tests when his side resumes on Sunday. He is at the crease with Chris Jordan, 19 not out.
"He (Root) has put us in a great position," teammate Gary Balance said. "It is great that we have batted all day and given ourselves a good lead. There is a little bit there in the wicket and if you bowl in good areas, you can create chances. Hopefully it still does that tomorrow when it is our turn to bowl."
Earlier, England captain Alastair Cook was dropped twice, on 65 by Murali Vijay off Varun Aaron, and on 71 by Ajinkya Rahane off Ravichandran Ashwin.
Aaron and Vijay then combined again to remove him on 79, as Cook failed in an attempt to make his first century since May 2013.
Ashwin was the leading bowler on another difficult day for India, closing with figures of 2-55.
"We played on a tough wicket," Ashwin said. "We wanted to pick up as many wickets as possible in the morning because we knew whatever was going to be in the wicket was going to be there in the morning. Later on, with the sun out, it was going to be a batting day."
India got an early breakthrough when Cook's opening batting partner, Sam Robson, fell for 37. He only added four runs to his overnight total before he was beaten for pace and bowled out by Aaron for 37, losing his off stump in the process.
Before the start of the fifth test, Cook backed Robson to consolidate his position in the side, after only making one century and one half century in nine innings since his test debut in June. But Robson again failed to post a big score after getting off to a good start and once more showed a vulnerability to deliveries around off stump.
Ballance, the leading run scorer in the series, joined Cook at the crease and the duo forged a second-wicket partnership that ended up being worth 125 for the second wicket, as they made sure India did not add to its early breakthrough and gain momentum.
Cook reached his half century when he cut Ashwin for four and he was the first wicket to fall after lunch, for Aaron's second dismissal.
Ballance, who had lashed a short delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar over the slips for four to bring up his half century, fell for Ashwin's first wicket when he found Cheteshwar Pujara at silly point on 64.
"I played a ball that I shouldn't have," Ballance said. "That is how it goes and I have got to learn from it. When you are in form, you have to work as hard you do when you are out of form."
Ian Bell went for 7 to Ishant Sharma, caught behind by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni from an inswinging delivery before Ashwin struck for the second time, bowling Moeen Ali for 14.
Sharma, whose figures were close to Ashwin's on 2-58, removed Jos Buttler for 45 when Ashwin caught him at short midwicket, before Kumar tempted Chris Woakes into edging behind to Dhoni for a duck.
England leads the five-match contest 2-1, and needs to avoid defeat to win the series. Despite the first two days belonging to England, Ballance believes India could still turn the match around if England let them.
"We have got to have another good day tomorrow," Ballance said. "We have got to try and score as many as we can and then bowl well again. Test cricket is tough, you are not going to win a test in two days."