As Cheteshwar Pujara eyes a 19th Test century, Rohit Sharma has lauded his teammate's discipline, as India look to rescue the third Test at Headingley.
One run shy of a hundred partnership with captain Virat Kohli, Pujara is nine runs away from his first Test century, since a score of 193 against Australia in January 2019.
Facing 180 balls against an English pace attack that ripped through India on day one, Pujara entered at the start of the 20th over of his team's second innings, still needing 320 to make the hosts bat again.
Chipping away with Sharma and Kohli, Pujara held firm in defence, though capitalised on run-scoring opportunities when they arose, striking 15 boundaries in his stay.
Opening his account by hitting James Anderson through mid-wicket for four, the shot, in the eyes of Sharma at the other end, freed up his partner.
“The way he got off the mark and then carried on from there. Anything loose he was ready to pounce on it. It shows he had an intent in his batting and that really helps.
“It was not the easiest of the situations to go and bat when you’re three hundred-odd behind. To bat the way he batted shows the character of an individual and shows the mindset of an individual as well.”
It would be remiss to describe the period since the hundred at the Sydney Cricket Ground over two years ago as a terrible trot. Averaging 30 with ten fifties, Pujara has remained a valuable figure in India's team even when not as his resolute best. For Sharma, who watched on at the other end for a large period in Leeds yesterday, Pujara's impact is unquestioned.
“Of late the runs haven’t come but that doesn’t mean the quality of Pujara has gone missing. I think the quality is always there," Sharma told the press after stumps yesterday.
“We saw a crucial partnership between him and Ajinkya (Rahane) at Lord’s and not to forget what he did in Australia (in the 2020/21 Border-Gavaskar Series). Those were crucial innings for us winning that historic Test series in Australia.
“It’s not about one or two innings or one or two series, it’s about what he has done in his entire career."
Sharma himself was in the runs for India, compiling 59 from a watchful 156 balls, combining in a partnership of 82 with Pujara before being trapped lbw by Ollie Robinson. For the opener, it was vital to learn the lessons of the first day, when India crumbled to be all out for just 78.
“It was definitely not a 78 pitch.
“As a batting unit, we accepted that we batted poorly. We corrected our mistakes in the second innings, which is why we are in this position right now."
Pujara and Kohli resume on day four with India 215/2, still trailing the hosts by 139 runs. Sharma admits nothing more than hard work will ensure India's recovery.
“Hopefully all the batters along with the two in the middle can just put their head down and bat as long as possible."
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