Cook defends England's defensive tactics
VISAKHAPATNAM, India (Reuters) - 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.
Cook and Haseeb Hameed showed exemplary patience and defensive technique during their 75-run opening stand on Sunday to keep India at bay for over 50 overs, facing a target of 405 to win on a track offering sharp turn and uneven bounce.
Both fell before the close of play on the penultimate day, however, and England were bowled out shortly after lunch on the fifth and final day to give India victory by 246 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 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 lower order start digging in and you think, 'why didn't we start that right at the beginning of the game'."
Cook singled out Adil Rashid for special praise, saying the leg-spinner was a changed bowler from the tour of Bangladesh where England lost their first-ever test against the hosts and drew the series 1-1.
"One thing we spoke about in Bangladesh was we didn't have the control with our spinners," Cook said of Rashid, who has taken 13 wickets in the two tests. "Adil has taken it to heart, gone away and bowled beautifully.
"He wasn't bowling the full tosses and long hops like he had been. That's a huge credit to him," Cook added.
"Rash can bowl. He's a good bowler and I think he's starting to believe it now. I think we're starting to see a bloke who realises he can play."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ed Osmond)