IF ever there was a fixture in which Alastair Cook was likely to return to form, it was against India at The Ageas Bowl.
Cook arrived in West End without a Test century in 27 innings, a dismal run of form stretching back 14 months.
But he is no stranger to success against India at The Ageas Bowl, having led England to one-day international victories here with knocks of 102 and 80 not out in 2007 and 2011.
Once again, the home of Hampshire Cricket was the scene of significant Cook runs as he laid the foundation of England's 247-2.
Even at the top of his game, the England captain is not the most fluent batsman.
But he dug deep, showing great strength of character in making 95 (231 balls), his highest score since his 130 against New Zealand at Headingley 18 months ago. KP could not resist a tweet after Cook went past his Test aggregate - and then David Gower’s - to become England’s third highest-scoring batsman of all-time, behind only Graham Gooch, his mentor, and Alec Stewart.
“Yowza...Cook getting some today! Brilliant for Alastair the batsman...”wrote the former Hampshire man. It was poor form from Pietersen, but there was no doubting whose side the crowd was on.
Cook’s disappointment at missing out on his 26th Test hundred, after being caught down the leg side against the slow left-arm of Ravindra Jadeja, was obvious and understandable.
But he received wonderful backing from the home crowd and walked off to a standing ovation from most of the 15,651 present.
It was the most emotive moment reception for an outgoing batsman at The Ageas Bowl since Pietersen was booed off after being bowled first ball by Liam Dawson in 2012.
It could have been very different, though. Cook edged the first ball of the match, from the skilful Bhuvneshwar Kumar, just short of the slips.
And he had only made 15 when he was put down by Jadeja at third slip, denying Pankaj Singh his first Test wicket.
Not all of Cook’s nine fours were convincing, but he pulled and cut the short ball emphatically.
He was beginning to look back to his old self, so much so that the scribes in the Ageas Bowl’s brand new media centre were beginning to write up another Cook hundred when he departed in unfortunate fashion.
No matter. Gary Ballance, with whom he put on 158 in 55 overs for the second wicket, went on to become the Ageas Bowl’s third Test centurion, after Ian Bell and Kumar Sangakkara, before reaching stumps on 104 (204 balls, 15 fours). The day’s real winner, however, was The Ageas Bowl.
Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew reflected the general consensus when he tweeted a picture of the view from the Northern End, captioned: “one of the prettiest grounds, now.”
And Rod Bransgrove basked in the glow of what surely ranks as the best day of his chairmanship during the final session.
“I was thrilled with the attendance, given the Sunday start,” he said. “A number of people who bought tickets haven't been here due to some issues with the railways that have seriously affected us.
“And there was one incident on the motorway close to one of the park-and-ride sites. But everybody got in ok eventually.
“The wicket was slightly slower than I expected but was still a good cricket wicket. The only real heartbreaker was Cooky getting out before reaching 100 - I'd actually written a slightly different script for that.
“I hoped for winning toss and batting, a hundred for Cook and an England win. Three out of four would be ok!”