(Reuters) - England's refusal to declare their second innings despite a healthy overall lead has surprised many who believe it might allow India to salvage a draw in the opening test in Chennai.
The touring side, who posted a mammoth 578 in their first innings, bowled out India for 337 in the morning session to claim a sizeable lead of 241.
Instead of enforcing the follow-on, however, England captain Joe Root decided to set India a target in the first match of the four-test series at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
By tea on the penultimate day, England's overall lead swelled to 360 but the tourists continued to bat on instead of declaring to buy extra time for their bowlers.
Apart from Root, who followed his 218 in the first innings with a quick 40, none of the batsmen could accelerate.
"Very surprised England haven’t declared yet & why aren’t they trying to get 400 asap?" tweeted former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne.
"England batted too long in the 1st innings too & now letting the game drift & showing no urgency at all."
England were all out for 178, setting India a record victory target of 420.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan was also critical of Root's approach.
"I think he is being too cautious and is giving India a good chance of getting out of this Test with a draw," tweeted Vaughan.
India chased down a 328-run target against Australia in Brisbane last month but will need to pull off the highest successful chase in test cricket history to win this match.
On Sunday, West Indies reached a 395-run victory target in Bangladesh with Kyle Mayers smashing an unbeaten double hundred on his test debut.
England pace bowling coach Jon Lewis said they did not want to take any chances against India's formidable batting line-up.
"It's obviously first game in the series," Lewis said after India finished the penultimate day on 39-1.
"While you want to get off to a really strong start, you don't really want to give India a chance to win."
He also dismissed suggestions the English batsmen did not show urgency to score quickly.
"I think the guys were positive in the way they played," he said.
"I don't think it's a straightforward pitch to just go and be reckless, and try and score runs."
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Ed Osmond)