The morning of the fourth day of the Third Test at Southampton's Rose Bowl may prove pivotal to England's fortunes in the current series. Following a first innings total of 569 for 7 declared, England's bowlers restricted India to 323 for 8 overnight. A couple of quick wickets in the morning would leave Alistair Cook in a strong position to decide whether to ask India to bat again or make an imposing total for the Indian batsmen to chase. Within twenty minutes of play, James Anderson took the final two wickets for the concession of only 7 runs and Cook chose to bat on. His team scored a quick-fire 205 for 4, with Cook unbeaten on 70, before declaring to leave India a world record 445 to win the match from 132 overs.

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From 112-4 at the close of the fourth day, England took the last six wickets before lunch on the final day and went on to win by 266 runs for a first Test victory in eleven attempts.

Cook's decision making was therefore vindicated but at the time, his judgement was not without controversy. Tweets and e-mails into the BBC's Test Match Special brought about a cross section of opinion. Feedback varied from the scathing: "pathetic decision" and "Cook should be sacked"; to the confused, "Why would you NOT enforce a follow-on when you have only used 20 mins of a day?" Others were in favour of Cook's stance: "Well done England. No need to enforce the follow on" and "Anderson and Broad need as much rest as they can get." Even the BBC pundits held differing views. Former England captain and batsman, Michael Vaughan, was an advocate for the follow-on, "I would enforce the follow-on, and hopefully win the game today."His former England team-mate, fast bowler Steve Harmisson, took the opposing view, "I would go and bat for 40-45 overs, which would still leave you about 135 overs to bowl them out." Whatever option he took, he was not going to please everyone.

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Alistair Cook would have to stand by his judgement.

When is the right time to enforce the follow-on? Cricket's Rule 13 states "usually in tests if you want to, to enforce a follow-on you need to have a 1st innings lead of at least 200 runs." England, with a lead of 239, could have put them in but chose instead to bat on. Why? The reason is simple. Setting your opponent a huge target to chase is a position from which few teams lose. It is the safe option, and with no wins from the last ten matches, Cook was under pressure to deliver. For England, it has been a tactic that has reaped success in recent years. At Lords during last year's Ashes test, England led by 233 in the first innings and ended up winning by 347 runs. Other examples include victories over New Zealand (also 2013), India (2011), Australia (2009) and Bangladesh (2010) where England held strong first innings leads. A win is not however guaranteed. In 2009, the West Indies last wicket pairing of Powell and Edwards managed to hold out for a draw.

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A common theme throughout these matches is significant contributions from Alistair Cook, including two centuries and three fifties. In this Test match, Cook made 95 and 70. Captains have to call it according to the conditions. Against New Zealand in 2013, England led by 211 and decided to put the opposition back in, with Stuart Broad explaining why: "With the weather around we are unsure of how much cricket will be played in the next two days, so that was the reason behind it." The match ended in a draw with the last day lost to rain. Teams are nowadays reluctant to put teams back in and prefer the safety-first approach. As well as protecting the match situation, the other concern for the captain is for the bowlers' fitness.

The current Test series sees 5 test matches being played between the 9th July and the 19th August, representing a potential 25 days of cricket from 41 consecutive days, following two tests against Sri Lanka in June. Stuart Broad has been nursing a knee injury during the current series. vWith more Test cricket being played globally because of broadcasting rights, the demands on the main strike bowlers have increased. The playing public want to see the world's best bowlers running in at 90mph every time so it was in Cook's best interests to keep his strike bowlers fresh. It is likely that the days of teams being asked to follow on are numbered.