England’s defensive batting approach against India was a conscious decision to save the second Test on a wearing track, the touring side’s captain Alastair Cook said after the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the series on Monday (November 21).
Cook and Haseeb Hameed showed exemplary patience and defensive technique during their 75-run opening stand last Sunday to keep India at bay for over 50 overs, facing an unlikely victory target of 405 runs.
Both fell before the close of play on the penultimate day, however, and England were bowled out for 158 shortly after lunch on the fifth and final day to lose by 246 runs. All 10 of their second-innings wickets went down for 83 runs.
India captain Virat Kohli questioned England’s approach and said the defensive mentality made it easier for his side to attack with more fielders in close catching positions.
“We thought they are going to come out with more intent, to be honest,” Kohli told reporters after the match in Visakhapatnam.
“And to see the approach they had obviously gave us assurance that once we get a couple of wickets, it’s going to crumble very quickly.”
“Only if you have intent then you can defend the ball properly because you are looking to play it with the bat. If you do not have intent… then obviously if it (the ball) does something then you are in no position to control it,” he added.
“If you are looking for runs you defend better as well because your head is on the ball. It’s a pretty basic thing to do to be honest…. and if you don’t, it’s very difficult in the fourth innings to play out four and-a-half sessions.”
Batting fourth after losing the toss was always going to be a difficult task for England with the wicket offering sharp turn and uneven bounce at a venue hosting its first Test.
“We set our stall out pretty clearly that from the start of the innings that we wanted to take it as deep as possible,” Cook told reporters.
“We saw in one game, South Africa played 140-odd overs. If we got to play 150-odd overs then we could have saved the game. We made a conscious effort to play that way. Everyone bought into it.”
The England side is filled with fluent strokemakers including Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.
But after the opening stand of 75 in 50.2 overs, Root, who has a career strike-rate of 55, made 25 off 107 balls. Ben Duckett fell without scoring in 16 balls and Moeen made two from 31 deliveries.
Stokes, who smashed 258 off 198 balls in Cape Town in January against South Africa during which he struck 30 fours and 11 sixes, took 33 deliveries to make six runs.
“It’s not some people’s natural way of playing,” Cook said. “But you say play your natural way and suddenly you’re four down, then the lower order start digging in and you think, ‘why didn’t we start that right at the beginning of the game’.”