Alastair Cook has defended England’s ‘blockathon’ tactics which fell short against India and have attracted criticism from opposite number Virat Kohli.
The England captain confirmed a management decision to cut out any collective intent to chase a highly improbable national record target of 405 in Vizag, and simply concentrate on trying to save the second Test.
Ultimately, England were a long way from achieving either – bowled out for 158 soon after lunch on the final day to lose by 246 runs and go 1-0 down in the five-match series.
England’s approach suited Cook and opening partner Haseeb Hameed in their stand of 75 in more than 50 overs.
But others in a line-up of natural strokemakers were playing against type, and England lost all 10 wickets for 83 runs as off-spinners Ravi Ashwin and Jayant Yadav struck three times each.
“We set our stall out pretty clearly from the start of that innings that we wanted to take it as deep as possible,” said Cook, encouraged into all-out defence by last year’s Delhi Test in which South Africa were all out for 143 in 143.1 overs.
“We saw in one game South Africa played 140-odd overs – if we’d got to 150-odd overs we could have saved the game.
“Often in those circumstances, you say ‘just play and see where we end up’ – but we made a conscious effort to go that way.”
Kohli hinted that England had played into their hosts’ hands.
“We thought they would come out with more intent,” said the Indian captain. “To see the approach they had obviously gave us assurance that once we got a couple of wickets it would crumble pretty quickly.”
Cook had no regrets. “Everyone bought into it.
“It’s not some people’s natural way of playing. But you say ‘play your natural way’ and then when you’re four down the lower order start digging in. Then you think ‘why didn’t we start that right at the beginning?’
“We made a very clear policy. Of course, when it doesn’t work people say ‘you could have been more positive – get the men out from round the bat’.
“But you make the decision as a captain or a leadership group. We came up a bit short.”
England will reflect on a match which was lost not in the second innings but the first. “When you concede 455 and you’re 80-5, it’s a long way back,” said Cook. “That cost us the game.”
Cook believes England can battle back, as they did from 1-0 down with three to play to win 2-1 in India on their last visit four years ago.
He said of the opposition: “They are good bowlers. They are not Supermen by any stretch of the imagination.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but if we can get ahead of the game then we can put India under pressure. We’ve just got to earn that right. We are still very much in this series.”
England face several selection and fitness calls before Saturday’s third Test in Mohali – not least whether to risk Stuart Broad, who bowled manfully through the pain of a strained tendon in his right foot over the past five days.
Jos Buttler is in line to return for his first Test in 13 months in place of Ben Duckett, whose technique has not proved suited to these conditions.
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