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Don't think it Was a Tough Day, Conditions Will Favour Our Batsmen: Pujara

Cricketnext Staff | September 2, 2018, 10:21 AM IST

Cheteshwar Pujara has come out in defence of his teammate R Ashwin, who despite bowling on a surface that had plenty of footmarks and was assisting spin, could only manage the solitary wicket of Ben Stokes in the 35 overs he bowled on Day 3 in Southampton.

Ashwin has been troubled by a hip injury which he suffered in the previous Test at Trent Bridge, and though he beat the outside edge of the batsmen on regular intervals, the wickets column didn't have much to show for.

"I don't think he (Ashwin) had a bad day. He didn't get too many wickets but he still kept on bowling in the right areas," Pujara said.

"Sometimes as a bowler you do have such days when you're bowling well but you might not end up picking too many wickets. So someone like him ... I think he is a clever bowler and he has done really well for us throughout the domestic season and even overseas, so I don't think he has bowled badly at all.

"The pitch has slowed down a lot and that might be the reason some of his balls didn't go through as much as he might have wanted."

The hosts ended the third day with their noses slightly in front on 260 for 8 and an overall lead of 233. It was a long day for the Indians in the field with the England batsmen finally showing the patience and grit which was missing in their first innings.

Pujara, however, did not think that it necessarily was a tough day for the visitors, insisting that with the surface slowing down, batting should get slightly easier.

"I don't think it was a tough day for us," Pujara said. "Looking at the pitch, it has slowed down a bit. Looks like it's slightly easier to bat and maybe we have got a lot of experience playing in such conditions back home, [something] our batsmen would have realised.

"We have played on such wickets in India that tend to slow down as the game progresses. And even the bounce is low, so most of our batters are used to such bounce and that could be in our favour in the second innings."

After bundling out England for 246 in the first innings, India were going strong at 161 for 3 at one stage, but a spectacular collapse saw them slip to 195 for 8 before Pujara forged crucial partnerships with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah helping them gain a slender 27-run lead.

Pujara conceded that the Indians should have batted a lot better in the first dig but was confident they will be able to chase down any score in the fourth innings.

"We started off well in the first innings but we lost too many wickets in the middle phase. If we had batted well, we would have got 100 or 150-run lead, but that is something in the past," Pujara said.

"But all the batsmen have realised what they need to do and I think we will put up a good show in the second innings and bowl them out early tomorrow."

With a brilliant 132*, Pujara also silenced a lot of his critics who have been doubting his overseas credentials. He applied himself all through the innings, and despite seeing wickets tumble at the other end, did not once lose focus.

The 30-year-old, who made an important 72 in the last Test as well, credited his success here to scoring runs in the previous outing.

"The most important thing was to score some runs in the last Test match," Pujara said. "I had been batting well throughout the season, although I didn't get too many runs in county cricket, but I was playing on some challenging wickets and sometimes, even if everything is correct, you do get out.

"So I just accepted that fact and kept working on my game. I don't think there was anything wrong with my technique or with my game. I just trusted it and it eventually paid [off] in the last Test match and once I got fifty, I knew I was up for a big one."

"We've got plenty to work with already": Buttler

Jos Buttler once again proved his worth in the England Test side with a solid 69 as the hosts ended Day 3 on a high. The wicketkeeper-batsman recorded crucial stands of 56 and 55 with Ben Stokes and Sam Curran respectively to help England reach 260 for 8 at stumps and an overall lead of 233.

Following his efforts at the end of the third day, Buttler was confident that England already have enough to work with but said that a lead of over 250 will be ideal.

"We've got plenty to work with already but anything about 250 would be a great number to try and eke out tomorrow morning. That would give us plenty of runs on a challenging pitch," he told SkySports following the day's play.

"You go through phases batting on this pitch - at times it feels like a good wicket but then a couple of balls will spin from the rough and then you find it harder for a bit. A few have kept a bit lower and brought the stumps into play as well.

"You are always trying to find the right balance between attack and defence. We got it wrong in the first innings and it was an obvious one to address for the second innings. But you've got to look to score runs, especially in a low-scoring game like this one."

Buttler was also effusive in praise of Sam Curran who followed his 78 in the first innings with an unbeaten 37. Curran is already England's second-highest scorer of the series with 242 runs despite not featuring in the Trent Bridge Test.

"He is suited to international cricket," Buttler said of Curran.

"He's never looked over-awed, he's always up for the fight and never wants to take a backwards step. It's been a promising start and hopefully he can kick on."

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