India had England on the ropes on Day 3 at 122 for five and after Moeen Ali's performance with the ball on Day 2, would have been expecting something similar from ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. However, India's premier off-spinner failed to rise to the occasion and that allowed England to rebuild through some gritty batting by Jos Buttler (69), Ben Stokes (30) and Sam Curran (37 not out). At stumps on Day 3, the hosts had reached 260 for eight and opened a lead of 233 runs. Ashwin, who had posed a lot of difficult questions to the English batsmen in previous Tests in the series, finished with one wicket for 78 runs in 35 overs. However, unperturbed by Ashwin's showing, Pujara, who hit an unbeaten century in India's 1st innings, made a strong defence of his teammate's uninspiring performance.
"I don't think he had a bad day. He didn't get too many wickets but he kept on bowling in the right areas. Sometimes as a bowler you do have such days when you are bowling but you might not end up picking too many wickets," Pujara said.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali had utilized the rough, created by the fast bowlers, to deadly effect. The off-spinner accounted for five wickets that helped England keep India’s first-innings lead to just 27.
England’s spinners have so far taken 12 wickets in this series to India’s 11.
"Someone like him, he is a clever bowler, and he has done really well for us throughout the domestic season as well as overseas. So, I don't think he has bowled badly at all. But yes the pitch has slowed down a lot and that could be the reason some of his balls (deliveries) didn't go through as much he might have wanted," said Pujara.
"It is their team combination. I don't think it matters too much, but being an off-spinner, Ashwin bowls well to left-handers. I don't think it makes a huge difference."
Pujara is aware of the threat posed by Moeen Ali on a slowing track but said that Indian batsmen should have handled him better in the first innings.
"When he bowled in the first innings the wicket was a little quicker. Obviously some of our batsmen could have batted well against him, but he is a good bowler.
"Obviously I am not trying to take any credit away from how he bowled. But we still should have batted better against him. I think in the second innings our batsmen will have a better game plan against Moeen."
(With PTI Inputs)