Alex Lees on Monday stated that England’s “ultimate belief” in each other helped propel them towards a history-making chase against India at Edgbaston.
England has already pulled off some fantastic fourth-innings efforts this summer, flourishing in the heat of battle to pull in objectives of 277, 299, and 296 against New Zealand, but if everything goes to plan on day five at Edgbaston they will have established a new high watermark.
India set the victory line at 378, greater than any England side has ever accomplished and deserving of a spot in the top 10 chases ever done in Test cricket, yet somehow start the final day as underdogs.
Joe Root (76 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (72 not out) are in fine form and are poised to add to their unbroken partnership of 150 while Ben Stokes waits in the pavilion. England needs just 119 more with seven wickets in hand to accomplish a spectacular performance.
Considerable credit must also go to the opening pair of Alex Lees (56) and Zak Crawley (46), who raised the roof with an agenda-setting century stand.
And Lees spoke for the whole squad when he declared that smashing an English record of 359, established by Stokes’ ‘miracle of Headingley’ during the 2019 Ashes, never came close to intimidating them.
“I simply think there is an absolute belief in one another, from one to 11, that we could achieve this,” he added.
“I think we’re simply really positive about it. You know the objective is there but you just try to push it into the background. It’s not something we necessarily spoke about.
“As a unit, our hitters are getting runs, they’re confident, it’s a reasonably decent wicket and a solid outfield. So, naturally, our goal is to just take the game to them.
Expanding on his technique, which saw him hit the first of eight boundaries by charging his third delivery of the innings, the left-hander said: “My role in a run chase is to put some pressure on the bowlers.
Just go do your thing, is what Brendan McCullum told me. Everyone is aware of the kind of play that this group prefers. I simply need an outlet for my thoughts. Because of a bad call by Root at the non-end, striker Lees was out when he had done nothing wrong. A player still looking for his first Test century felt the sting of the moment, but he also saw the wider picture. He remarked with a grin, “Joe could lend me one of his hundreds, he’s got lots of them.”
I caught a glimpse of him as he came out on the field and saw that he was dejected, but he’s a great man, so I have faith that he’ll pull through tomorrow. “From a personal standpoint it’s tough, but I take comfort in the fact that we’re in a fantastic situation as a team.”
After being seen in a heated altercation with Durham’s opener, Virat Kohli was seen enthusiastically celebrating Lees’ departure. He went on to explain, “I believe he’s a very competitive guy, but I’m also fairly headstrong, that’s what my wife thinks.” I was determined not to give in. Both of us exchanged a few words, but that’s the fun of Test cricket. That feeling is crucial.