YOU get the impression England’s batsmen would not mind playing every home Test at The Ageas Bowl.
A crowd of 10,561, including the eclectic trio of Glenn Maxwell, Piers Morgan and Al Murray (The Pub Landlord) was treated to high-class batsmanship from three very different England batsmen on the second day of the third Test against India.
The day after seeing Alastair Cook grind out his highest score for 14 months, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Jos Buttler provided the entertainment as England made 569-7 declared, after resuming on 247-2.
Ballance, Bell and Buttler have happy memories of the Ageas Bowl from previous visits to Botley Road, West End.
Bell now has four hundreds in seven international innings at the home of Hampshire Cricket.
His imperious167 (256 balls, 19 fours, three sixes), his first Test century since last August, is his best yet at The Ageas Bowl.
He brought up his century with a sublime straight six in taking 20 off four balls from the slow left-arm of Ravindra Jadeja and finally holed out to mid-on after passing 150 for the first time since 2011.
Bell will be around for a while yet, but Ballance and Buttler – the left-handed run machine from Zimbabwe and the swashbuckling right-hander from Somerset - showcased England’s long-term future.
On the ground where he made 73 as a prodigiously talented 16 year-old on his county cricket debut (Hampshire beat Derbyshire by one wicket in a last-ball 40-over thriller), Ballance made 156 (288 balls, 24 fours) after resuming on 104.
He was unfortunate to be given out caught behind (replays showed the ball had deflected off his thigh pad and not his bat) against Rohit Sharmas’s off-spin, having put on 142 with Bell.
But it was Bell’s 106 from 136 balls with Buttler that excited most. Buttler was irrepressible and looked destined to register a century on his Test debut, four years after making his maiden first-class hundred on the same ground in only his fourth first-class match, before chopping on against Jadeja after facing only 83 balls (nine fours, three sixes).
His swashbuckling knock was actually more like the rapid fifty he hit for Somerset against Notts when the Ageas Bowl hosted T20 Finals Day four years ago.
It was reminiscent of when the likes of Ian Botham and Kevin Pietersen were confirmed as the real deal.
A star was born after tea as Buttler twice reverse-swept boundaries. He smashed Jadeja back over his head for six and then launched two maximums in as many balls against fellow debutant Pankaj Singh. His dismissal prompted the declaration, whereupon James Anderson hinted at a return to form on the ground where he claimed his maiden first-class five-for.