After being dropped from the opening Test at Edgbaston where India fell short by 31 runs, clamours for Cheteshwar Pujara's inclusion kept gaining voice. The 30-year-old was included for the Lord's Test but an unfortunate run out in the first innings for 1 was followed by his stumps being castled by an in-dipper for 17 in the second, and it was back to the drawing board for India's Test No.3.
The first innings of the third Test at Trent Bridge wasn't too successful either as he fell to Chris Woakes playing an uncharacteristic hook at the stroke of lunch on Day 1 for 14. With the home vs away statistics, that have haunted him all his career, once again starting to make rounds, Pujara came out in the second dig resolute and finally managed to turn things around.
Forging a 113-run stand with captain Virat Kohli, Pujara scored a defiant 72 in 208 balls to put India in the driver's seat.
"I think I was always confident, although I didn't score too many runs I played on challenging pitches in County cricket. I always felt that I was batting well, especially in the nets – the way I was timing the ball, I was very confident that I was up for a big one," Pujara said after the third day.
"The way I batted in this innings, I felt that whatever I was working on in the nets came along and I am really pleased to score those valuable 72 runs for the team."
Pujara turned out for Yorkshire in the County Championship Division One this season and despite not scoring a lot of runs (172 in 12 innings), he admitted that the stint helped him in adjusting to the conditions on offer.
"I think you just need to trust your technique, your temperament and be confident about how you know to play in such conditions. Playing county cricket did help me. I have learnt a lot, although I didn't score many runs the kind of time I spent here in the last few years has helped me deal with such conditions," he said.
"Ultimately, wherever you go, especially for us Indian batsmen when we play away from home, whether it is England, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, I think we just need to trust our technique. Everyone has a different technique and a way to play, and we should play the way we know."
Another ailing issue which the Indian team faced in the first two Test was not getting the opening partnerships, which meant the No.3 batsman was forced to be in much earlier than ideal. That changed, however, in Nottingham with Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul putting up 50+ stands in each innings.
Pujara was effusive in praise of both openers and was proud the way the batsmen stood up after the thrashing India received in the first two Tests.
"There is always some pressure, especially when you haven't scored too many runs and even as a team, a batting unit, before this Test match we did not score too many runs," said Pujara.
"So it was important that our top-order starts scoring runs. The way our openers batted in the first and second innings, I think a lot of credit goes to them because sometimes it is not about scoring big fifties or hundreds but even if they get 30 or 40 runs, it is quite valuable for the team. I think in both innings we got 50 runs without losing any wickets, which is always important for the team," Pujara added, hailing opening batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, who added 60 runs for the first wicket in each innings of the Test.
Led by Kohli's 23rd Test ton and useful contributions from all other batsmen, India declared on 352 for 7 setting England a mammoth 520-run target with two days to go. At the end of the third day's play, the hosts were 23 for 0 requiring a further 497 for a win. With the surface starting to keep slightly low, Pujara was confident the bowlers will be able to secure victory on the fourth day.
“There's enough help for the fast bowlers," he said. "We saw in the first session today that some balls were climbing, some stayed low. If we bowl the way we did in the first innings, we'll have a good chance of bowling them out tomorrow.”