Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara joined at the middle in India's second innings on Day 3 at Headingley as India stared at a mammoth 320-run deficit against England.
India lost KL Rahul (8) at the stroke of Lunch and Rohit was joined by an under-fire Pujara for the second session. The pair seamlessly drove the side out of imminent trouble with an 82-run partnership as India's number three returned to run-scoring form at a rapid rate.
Rohit lauded Pujara's positive intent and said it was the difference between India fighting for survival and moving forward to reduce the host's lead to 139 at stumps. "He (Pujara) came with an intent to score runs. This innings of ours was never about survival, we had an intent to score runs and he clearly showed that. The way he got off the mark and carried it through. Anything loose and he was ready to pounce on it," Rohit said at the post-day media interaction.
Pujara took the mantle of scoring further after Rohit's gritty knock of 59 came to an untimely end, right after Tea. In walked captain Virat Kohli, another batter who was desperate to regain his touch. With the surface providing minimal help for Joe Root's bowlers, India ended the day on 215 for two with a 99-run stand between Pujara and Kohli.
While Pujara (91 n.o.) crossed the 90-run mark for the first time since January 2019, Kohli ended the day unbeaten on a flawless 45, initiating talks of a much-awaited 71st international ton on Saturday.
'Talks are all in the outside'
Rohit commended Pujara's mental fortitude while stating that there were no talks within the management about the senior batsmen who has been short of runs. "To be honest, there hasn't been a single discussion about Pujara's batting in the dressing room. The talks are all only happening outside. We know the quality that he is and the experience he brings to the table.
"I don't think there's a need for discussion. On his recent performance, yes, he's not scored runs but we saw a crucial partnership between him and Ajinkya (Rahane) at Lord's. Not to forgot what he did in Australia. Those were crucial innings for us in winning that historic series. Sometimes we tend to forget... our memories are a little bit shortened. We need to talk about what the guy has done over the years," added Rohit.
Making up for 78 all-out
The 34-year-old admitted that India fared poorly with the bat when it was dismissed for 78 - its ninth-lowest score ever - by England in its first essay, but worked on its mistakes to bounce back.
"We batted poorly in the first innings. They bowled good balls, but it was not a 78 pitch. We accepted that we batted poorly and corrected the mistakes in the 2nd innings, which is why we are in this position right now. Tomorrow again is a crucial day for us. Hopefully, all the batters along with the two in the middle can put their head down and see how much we can get," said Rohit.
Rohit, who has brought a fresh lease of life for India at the top of the order, said he is more focused on ticking the team's objectives rather than personal milestones. The 34-year-old is yet to register a Test hundred outside India - his highest score of 83 came in the first innings at Lord's.
"I am not disappointed [on missing the century]. It was an unlucky dismissal, something that can happen anytime while you're batting. The three-figure mark is the last thing on my mind. Getting the team into a good position and how I can create a partnership with the other batter, those are the things I'm thinking about right now," he said.
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