Lewis defends England's day four tactics in Chennai

By Sports Desk February 08, 2021

Bowling coach Jon Lewis defended England's approach after they did little to move forward their victory bid during the final session of day four in the first Test against India in Chennai.

England set an improbable victory target of 420, one that will set a new record in Tests if India are somehow able to knock off the runs from a position of 39-1 at stumps.

It is a match situation that underlines the tourists' unexpected domination of the contest, although they were criticised in some quarters for letting the game drift after tea on Monday.

Ollie Pope was the sixth man out with the score 130 in their second innings, from which point there was a wait for a declaration that never came as all of England's tailenders emerged and they took a further 18 overs to reach 178 all out.

Jack Leach then bowled Rohit Sharma with a beauty, but there were no further breakthroughs before the close.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Lewis insisted England were comfortable with their tactics, pointing towards the potential importance of the second new ball during the last session of the match.

James Anderson and Jofra Archer will also be fresh for a second chance to make inroads with a ball only 13 overs old on the final morning.

"The guys were positive in the way they played and I don't think it's a straightforward pitch to just go and be reckless when trying to score runs," Lewis said of England's dwindling scoring rate following Pope's departure for 28.

"We were very comfortable with the amount of overs we wanted to bowl tonight. That obviously gives us a bit of a bite with the second new ball tomorrow, if required - 20 overs or so.

"In terms of the position of the game, we're really comfortable with where we're at.

"It's the first game of the series. While you want to get off to a really strong start, you don't really want to give India a chance to win.

"Saying that, they've got some fine players. You also want to be able to have attacking fielders the whole day, especially to our spin bowlers, around the bat.

"To get as many runs as we can and keep the rate high for them feels like our best chance to win the game."

Joe Root had the option to enforce the follow-on after England wrapped up India's first-innings for 337 - a deficit of 241.

However, India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who scored 31 with the bat before claiming 6-61, suggested Root's desire to give his attack recovery time was understandable.

"They had two options in front of them. They could have asked us to follow-on," he said.

"The only reasoning I could see is they wanted to give a bit of a rest to their bowlers, which is a part of the game that is sometimes not very well understood on the outside

"Sometimes fresh bowlers can do the trick more than tiring bowlers."

Whether or not England's refreshed bowlers are able to do the trick on day five will ultimately determine how their Monday approach comes to be viewed.

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