England captain Alastair Cook led his side to 78 for one at lunch on the first day of the third Test at Southampton on Sunday after India missed an excellent chance to dismiss the opener.

Left-hander Cook, dropped on 15, moved on to 48 not out at the interval, with Gary Ballance unbeaten on four after Australia-born opener Sam Robson fell for 26.

Prior to this match, Cook had scored 638 runs in 27 Test innings, at an average of 23.6, with no centuries since the last of his England record 25 hundreds against New Zealand at Leeds in May last year.

Cook, despite his run drought and with England 1-0 down in the five-match series after their 95-run defeat in the second Test at Lord's, opted to bat first after winning the toss on a green-tinged pitch.

He edged the first ball of the match, from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, just short of the slips and scored his first boundary with an unconvincing steer through a vacant third man area.

Robson was more sure of himself in cover-driving Kumar for four.

Cook had a huge let off when, on 15 and with England 25 without loss in the 12th over. He opened the face when pushing out against Test debutant Pankaj Singh, bowling from around the wicket, and got a thick outside edge but Ravindra Jadeja dropped a seemingly routine catch at third slip.

It was tough on the 6ft 6in (1.98 metres) Singh, brought in after Ishant Sharma, who took a Test-best seven for 74 at Lord's, was ruled out with ankle problems.

But a first-wicket partnership worth 55 ended when Robson fell in familiar fashion.

Mohammed Shami squared him up with a delivery that cut away off the seam and this time Jadeja made no mistake with the chance at third slip.

Shami also beat Cook outside off stump and next ball had the 29-year-old edging a drive through a vacant gully for four.

But two well-struck cut fours off spinners Rohit Sharma and Jadeja took Cook to within sight of a fifty.– AFP