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Cheteshwar Pujara

Whatever the target, Pujara expects 'a good show' from Indian batsmen

Eng v Ind, 4th Test, reaction

Cheteshwar Pujara conceded that India could have batted better in the first innings in Southampton but maintained that with the surface slowing down, the Indian batsmen have a good chance of chasing whatever total they are set.

India had begun day three of the fourth Test against England at Southampton with a slender first-innings lead but ended it trailing England by 233 runs, with two wickets still to get. With 260/8 in the second innings, the hosts have regained their feet after what was a long day for the Indians, but not necessarily a tough one, according to their first-innings centurion, Cheteshwar Pujara.

"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."

England were helped by a fine half-century by Jos Buttler (69) and valuable contributions from captain Joe Root (48) and Sam Curran, who built on his half-century in the first innings with an unbeaten 37 on Saturday, ensuring that the visitors, who are 2-1 down the series, will be chasing at least around 250 when they bat last.

"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 of India's first-innings effort, where they had slipped from 161/3 to 195/8 before Pujara led a rearguard with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, with the last two wickets adding a valuable 78 runs.

"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."

This Test is also the first occasion when any Indian batsmen other than Virat Kohli scored a century in the series as Pujara went one up on his half-century at Trent Bridge, where he was dismissed on 72 in the second innings, to score an unbeaten 132. The 30-year-old credited his runs in the last Test match for this innings.

"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."

While Pujara batted for almost the whole of day two, his teammate Ravichandran Ashwin bowled 35 overs on day three, but could manage only a solitary wicket of Ben Stokes. The Indian off-spinner consistently beat the outside edge of both right and left-handed batsmen, extracting turn out of the rough created by the fast bowlers' foot marks, but could not translate those opportunities into wickets.

But Pujara didn't believe Ashwin had an off day. "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.

I don't think Ashwin had a bad day; he didn't get too many wickets but he still kept on bowling in the right areas

"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."

Ashwin bowled 35 overs in England's second innings but returned a solitary wicket
Ashwin bowled 35 overs in England's second innings but returned a solitary wicket

India are set to chase a moderately steep target on a surface that although has been touted as the best of the series by both captains, but hasn't been easy to score on. Does Pujara think India have the game to score that many on the last two days?

"Looking at this pitch, I think it always slows down a bit, but we have played on such wickets in India that tend to slow down as the game progresses," he said. "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."

We should have batted better against Moeen in the first innings

As India begin their pursuit of chasing whatever England set them, they should be vary of Moeen Ali, who picked up a five-wicket haul in the first innings and was the wrecker-in-chief for the visitors, as they lost five wickets for 30-odd runs in 14.1 overs.

"I think when he bowled in the first innings, the wicket was a little quicker and some of our batters could have batted a bit better," he said. "But he (Moeen) is a good bowler – I am not trying to take any credit away from the way he bowled. But we still should have batted better against him and in the second innings batters will have a better game plan against Moeen."

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