England expected the Indian team to score more than 466 in the second innings given the excellent conditions for batting at the Oval on Sunday, Chris Woakes said at a press conference as he reflected on another tiring day in the field for his team.
A strokeful 44 from Virat Kohli, half-centuries from Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur, and some decent contributions by the lower-order batsmen helped India set England a target of 368 to win the fourth Test.
“We actually felt they could have got more than what they did. We did our hard yards but we felt it was a good enough wicket to be able to chase any score,” Woakes said.
Although no team has ever scored more than 263 in the fourth innings on this ground to win a Test match, Woakes believed England could do it on this pitch.
“It’s a Day Five Test match, to go all the way and chase down that score would be an incredible effort. It would be a great chase, obviously, but we have to tick it off slowly. The [openers] did a great job tonight, we’re in a good position to start in a good place tomorrow.
“We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We have to go away and realise that tomorrow is going to be tricky again. Getting 290 on a Day Five pitch always sounds like a tough ask but we have got to keep reminding ourselves that this pitch is still good for batting, and we can do it if we bat all the way down,” he said.
Woakes admitted it was hard to get wickets and that his team had a few sore bodies after bowling many overs: Woakes, James Anderson, and Ollie Robinson all bowled more than 30 overs in the second innings, for a tally of more than 45 each in the Test match.
“We all bowled 45-plus overs in the game. Naturally, you’re going to be a little bit sore. I spoke to Jimmy [Anderson] in the second innings, and he felt that there are occasions in England when you can kind of bowl at about 90 percent. We felt like on this pitch in the second innings, we had to slam every ball into the pitch to get anything out of it. That takes a lot out of you.
“There are a few sore bodies in the dressing room from the bowling unit, but you expect that given the time that we’ve been in the field. Hopefully, we’ll be able to recover tomorrow; get the medical staff to give us some love, and I’m sure we’ll be fine. A few aches and pains, as you can imagine,” he said.
Woakes was himself in the thick of action during a successful fourth-innings chase last year, when England chased down 277 for the loss of seven wickets at Old Trafford against Pakistan.
“Whatever happened last year is different to this scenario. This pitch is probably better than that one, but at the same time, every chase is different. You need guys to get themselves in and create big partnerships. So that puts the pressure on the opposition from a bowling point of view. We’ve been in this position many times as a side. As a bowler, you’re under pressure to take wickets and each run is chipping away at the opposition, and the longer you can get guys to bat longer together and create partnerships, that’s when it makes it difficult for the opposition fielding team,” Woakes said.
Woakes was aware that the Indian team may try to get under their skin when they batted on Monday, as they did at Lord’s.
“All of us have played Test cricket for quite a while. You realise that a team adopts different tactics, at times. I certainly expect them to maybe try and get under our skin at some point but it is a part of Test cricket. We’re playing Test cricket for four solid days here. Both teams are putting the shift, and no one will give in easily. So, we’ll probably expect that; whether they do that, I don’t know,” he said.