India's assistant coach Sanjay Bangar lauded Cheteshwar Pujara's 'clarity of thought' among other facets of his batting after the No. 3 batsman scored his maiden Test century in England.
Pujara was dropped from the Indian XI for the first Test in Birmingham before he made in back at Lord's. He showed his importance in the third Test in Nottingham, scoring a half-century in the second innings which also played a part in India's victory. He extended the form with an unbeaten 257-ball 132 that helped India take a slender lead in the fourth Test in Southampton, leaving the game in the balance by the end of the second day.
"Right from when he got in to Lord's to the way he played in Nottingham, and whatever he carried here, he showed great composure. He showed clarity of thought and great discipline in judgment outside off," said Bangar after the day's play. "He also executed his shots really well. It was a great mix of caution and aggression. We also saw another facet of his batsmanship - he showed us glimpses of what he can do when he is batting with the tail. Overall, it should have been a very satisfying effort for him."
Bangar conceded Pujara was 'struggling' slightly when the series started, having endured a tough run in the county season where he scored only 172 runs from 12 innings.
"He was coming off a rough trot. He also wasn't really scoring over the last 10 or 11 innings that he played for India, didn't really score as much as he would have
liked," said Bangar. "He was struggling a bit when he joined the team but you can't carry or make choices based on how one does in the first-class format because he's an international and proven player. Certain areas had to be worked on, he had to get his balance and also his footwork right. Those were the two areas we had to work on as support staff - Ravi (Shastri) and myself. Heartening that the work that he put in was duly rewarded and very happy for him."
Bangar rued yet another middle-order collapse, and was particularly unhappy with losing a bunch of wickets just before tea. At one stage, India were in a strong position at 161 for 3 before they collapsed to 195 for 8, Moeen Ali running through them.
Bangar said India were not caught by surprise by Moeen and explained they had prepared for the off-spinner's threat.
"Losing wickets at the stroke of tea was a setback. In a span of 15 runs we lost four wickets. From a position of strength we were sort of staring at
conceding a lead. Credit to (Jasprit) Bumrah and Ishant (Sharma), they hung in, negotiated the spinners really well and got us into a decent lead."
"Cricketers prepare for all sorts of eventualities, not just seam bowling. We had also practised and spoken about spin factor that we might encounter. But we had a couple of soft dismissals. Hardik (Pandya) wasn't on top of the ball while driving and (R) Ashwin attempted the reverse sweep pretty early in his innings. Had he been set or batting with the tail maybe one could have thought the shot was on. But Pujara was going so well, so maybe they could have done those things differently. But as professional cricketers we prepare for all things we might encounter."
Before Pandya and Ashwin, Rishabh Pant struggled and made a 29-ball 0 having walked in at No. 6. It signalled a shift in momentum, with England gradually getting on top.
"Rishabh didn't get any loose deliveries till the point he got out. He was being tested outside off stump by the seamers who kept on bowling that line and length," said Bangar. "There was no clear direction to him to bat in a particular fashion. We always encourage batters to bat in their own individual style and make their own choices when they're out in the middle. On the stroke of tea, he probably didn't get scorable deliveries but had he stayed on, India could have been in a different position."
Meanwhile, Moeen credited his county performances and the confidence he gained for his all-round show in the Test. He didn't play the first three Tests, but having made a double-ton and taken eight wickets for Worcestershire against Yorkshire recently, he made it back for the fourth Test and immediately made a mark picking up 5 for 63. This, after scoring a crucial 40 with the bat.
"I loved being back at Worcestershire. Just getting the form back with the bat and ball there at county cricket, enjoyed being back and having a bit of a break," he said. "It's always nice to get a call up when you're having a good nick, I saw the confidence come back to the game. It's doing what county cricket should be doing - giving confidence to a player to come back into the Test side and perform."
Moeen's good run of form comces after a disastrous winter where he struggled in the Ashes before finally being left out of the side for the second Test against New Zealand. The all-rounder, though, said his self belief kept him going.
"It's believing that you're not a bad player after one bad winter, many players have gone through that" said Moeen. "For me, it was just moving on, making you a better player, stronger character. I moved on pretty early from that. It's about knowing you can play for England and perform. I've done it perform. Yeah, it was a bad winter but these things can happen to anybody. You've just got to put things into perspective. Australia has always been difficult place especially for foreign spinners.
"For me mentally it was about getting over that, and coming back knowing I've played India in England before. I've done well in England before and there is no reason why I can't do that. I do feel like the role in this side is my best role, mainly as a batter and coming on as a second spinner and I feel it gives me more confidence, more freedom and I end up playing better. I'm trying a fresh start to be honest. I've got good backing and good support from the guys."