India v England: Lessons from day four as Cook comes to tourists’ rescue

India v England: Matt Cansick takes a look at the talking points from day four of the first Test as Alastair Cook posted 168 not out

alastair cook
England captain Alastair Cook ended day four on 168 Photo: The Sport Review

alastair cook

Cook leads from the front

England managed to sneak into a 10 run lead at the end of day four thanks in no small part to the most timely of captain’s innings. Alastair Cook batted throughout the day to register his third century in as many matches as captain, finishing on an unbeaten 168. Despite wickets falling around him he continued to look unflustered, and once Matt Prior came to the crease with England 199-5 a solid partnership developed. Prior also produced a composed knock, reaching 84 not out by the close of play, and it was another demonstration of his importance to the team. The rest of the middle order batsmen again failed to register any significant scores, although Ian Bell did not demonstrate the recklessness that saw him widely criticised after holing out first ball in the first innings. There is a great deal of work still to do, but you would have to say that this has been England’s day.

Another long day ahead

Effectively 10-5, England cannot change their approach just yet. Prior began to play some shots in the last few overs of day four, but he will need to knuckle down alongside his captain on Monday morning, and make sure the pitch is not doing anything untoward. Ideally Cook would like to see his side bat until tea, by which time any target should be unattainable and a draw would be the likeliest outcome. They cannot look too far ahead however, and one wicket would change the complexion of the game dramatically. A target anywhere over 100 can cause problems for the chasing side, but with Virender Sehwag demonstrating his hitting prowess in the first innings, England will not want to take any chances. Realistically they are not going to force a victory, and a draw would be an extremely positive result given the position they found themselves in after the first innings.

Fightback crucial for series

Regardless of how the game finishes, it was important for England to show some fight, and an innings defeat would have represented the worst possible start to the series. India could still win by ten wickets, but England’s batsmen have demonstrated that they can score on pitches such as this when they apply themselves. Bell will be returning home for the birth of his first child after this match, so there will be at least one change to the side for the second Test. Monty Panesar is pushing for inclusion, and with Jonny Bairstow and Steven Finn also waiting in the wings, we could see a very different line-up in Mumbai. If England are able to salvage a draw, or even fall to a narrow defeat, they would head into the next Test with a great deal more optimism than looked possible at the start of Sunday.

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