James Anderson was in bullish form as England faced down a record chase of 399 in Visakhapatnam, claiming India were struck by an attack of nerves.
From an overnight score of 67 for one the tourists will be attempting not only the biggest ever pursuit by an England side but the highest ever in Indian conditions. Yet Anderson revealed their irrepressible head coach Brendon McCullum had already prepared them to take on 600.
England have been chasing the second Test ever since losing the toss on the first morning, but they are a side who truly come alive when the result is on the line and have won eight of their last 10 batting last.
What an opportunity ahead.
Fourth innings. 332 more to win.
And you know we're going for it 💪
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 4, 2024
When they hunted down 378 against the same opponents at Edgbaston in the summer of 2022 – the biggest ever fourth-innings pursuit by an England side – they did so with ease as unbeaten centuries from Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root delivered a thumping seven-wicket win.
And Anderson feels India’s dominant position on the scorecard masks a vulnerability, pointing to a second-innings collapse that saw them lose six for 44 to finish 255 and give England a glimmer of hope.
“I think the nerves were there to see in the way they batted. I think they didn’t know how many was enough,” said the 41-year-old.
“The chat last night from the coach was that if they get 600, we were going to go for it, but they were quite cautious even when they had a big lead.
“I don’t know if ‘intimidating’ is the right word but we’re putting different thoughts in opposition’s minds and captain’s minds. It definitely felt like they were unsure what a good score would be against us. There’s been moments throughout the last two years, particularly in the last 12 months, that makes us think we’re doing something well because the way teams have reacted.
“We’ve got so much quality in our dressing room and there are guys in there who can maybe get 150 for us and win us the game.”
Root has more big scores than anyone else in the away dressing room, but he may not be operating at 100 per cent due after an injury scare. He took a blow to the finger in Sunday’s warm-up and another while fielding at slip in the morning session, forcing him off the field for treatment.
It may not be wise for Root to do so himself, but the rest of his team-mates will be crossing their fingers it is nothing serious.
“His finger isn’t great. Hopefully he’ll turn up at the ground and be OK to hold a bat,” said Anderson.
“He’s been looking after it, making sure he did everything he could to help us out in the second innings. We’ll need everyone, I think.”
England’s eagerness to go on the attack was personified by the emergence of Rehan Ahmed at number three, volunteering his own promotion up the order in the ‘nighthawk’ role first devised by Stuart Broad.
He could have been out twice in the final over of the day but instead picked up two risky boundaries.
“He got announced as ‘nightwatchman’ over the Tannoy but he certainly wasn’t that,” Anderson said with a smile.
“I know there are 180 overs left in the game, but we will try to do it in 60 or 70. That’s the way we play, and we saw that tonight with Rehan going out and playing his shots. We have set our stall out.”