Following on, with plenty of time left in the game, it was a day for slow twitch muscle fibres. England needed batsmen to show endurance and so it was perhaps unsurprising that the cyclist (Matt Prior) and the player they say is England’s fittest (Alastair Cook) were the ones to put in a long shift.
It’s not like the other batsmen are liable to physically collapse should they remain at the crease for more than 20 minutes (although it currently seems like this assumption will never be tested). Playing a long innings isn’t about that kind of endurance. It’s more that a tired body tends to conserve energy by limiting the resources provided to the brain and feet.
However, England can expect danger in the morning for the corollary of this. The cumulative effect of very small deteriorations in elements of India’s bowling and fielding means that batting gets decidedly easier as the day wears on. A yard of pace, an iota of rip, an inch of width, a slower sprint – all of these things contribute. Then, the next day when the players are rested, everything is reset.
England’s first innings began with three quick wickets; the first session of day three featured four wickets; and the first session of day four featured three wickets. These periods of play have been when almost all of England’s specialist batsmen have been dismissed. After that, things seem to get just a little bit easier.
As a cycling fan, Matt Prior will know all about the aggregation of marginal gains. He and Alastair Cook will need to witness this aggregation of marginal losses from the batting crease tomorrow if England are to have any hope of saving this Test match.