England’s prospects in India were in doubt after their dismal tour of Bangladesh but the touring side proved themselves by running their hosts close for a draw in the opening Test, captain Alastair Cook said on Sunday. India captain Virat Kohli remained unbeaten on 49 in a tense final session to deny England, who fell four wickets short of clinching a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Cook and his men landed in India with bruised egos, having lost the second Test in Dhaka inside three days to settle for a 1-1 share of the series against Bangladesh, the world’s ninth-ranked Test team.
However, they scored four hundreds in the match against world number one Test side India and looked like the only team who could force a win in the contest.
“We probably proved to everyone else that we can play,” Cook told reporters. “I said at the beginning of the tour that we have got some very talented players.
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“Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, for example, and Joe Root is world class. The hundreds we set up, obviously it was a good toss to win, but the way we played to get 530 showed the character on a different wicket.
“To score those runs was very pleasing and then we did 160 overs of hard graft to keep India below us. We did a lot of very good things, just couldn’t quite get over the line.”
England had lost 10 wickets in a session in Dhaka, exposing their frailties against spinners on turning wickets.
With India boasting the world’s top-ranked bowler in off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, Cook admitted before the start of the series that his side were the underdogs.
“As a group after what happened in Bangladesh I keep saying that if we play on those wickets we need to readjust,” said the 31-year-old, who scored his 30th hundred in Tests on Sunday.
“On these wickets, it takes a bit of time to turn and it was pretty flat to start with.
“I am confident we will score the runs and confident we can bowl well enough to put India under pressure if we hit the same standards.”
It was Cook’s sixth Test hundred against India and he declared his team’s second innings on 260/3 to set India an improbable target of 310.
Asked if England could have declared earlier, Cook said he did not want to give their opponents a sniff at victory.
“Batting sometimes to just survive knowing you will never get the target is a lot different than chasing 260-270,” he said. “Maybe a braver person would have set 240.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)