Plenty of guts, and even more glory for Pujara
This is the innings Cheteshwar Pujara believed he could play. An innings of courage, calm, and calculated assault.
There are many yardsticks to measure how important Pujara's unbeaten 132 is in the context of the series. First, without Pujara's runs, India's resolve would have been flattened. Their series would have been over, and all the motivation after the Trent Bridge victory might have evaporated. Secondly, and more importantly, he is the only top-order batsman in both teams to hit a half-century in this Test so far.
When Pujara walked out to bat on the second morning, his first thought might have been about his previous visit to this venue. In a county championship match in June, he made 0 and 32, with Dale Steyn having sent his off-stump flying in the first innings. Today though, there was no vulnerability in Pujara's mind and defence.
India were in danger of losing the initiative after KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan fell, having started confidently. Pujara scored his first run off his 12th delivery - quick by his standards. He is generally happy not to be rushed. His first boundary, a crisp off drive against Sam Curran, came after 36 deliveries.
In contrast, Virat Kohli punched his second ball - from Stuart Broad - for four. In the hour before lunch there urgency in India's batting, an intent to score. Even Pujara was looking for runs. He upper cut Broad for four, and Kohli applauded. When Anderson bowled a loose ball, Pujara did not let it go - he rocked back to unleash a fierce square cut. The pair ran hard, urging each other. India went to lunch on 100 for 2. The partnership was already worth 50 runs, with Pujara matching Kohli's 25 runs.
While an aggressive Kohli is to be expected, England faced a new entity in Pujara. He forced England's bowlers to think hard. Initially, Curran felt he could bend one from over the wicket into Pujara. But Pujara was waiting, eyes wide open, bat steady, soft hands. He dead-batted Curran many a time.
Failing to find movement into Pujara, Curran opted to bowl from around the stumps. This was a minor victory for Pujara, making the bowler change his plan. He also knew Curran would aim to angle the ball in from wide of the crease. That meant he would also bowl fuller. If Curran erred, Pujara could take advantage. A slow over-pitched delivery arrived soon, and Pujara lunged to hit a fluent cover drive that took him two short of his second 50-plus score of the series.
There was a minor lapse in focus as soon as he reached his half-century. Facing Ben Stokes' first ball of the day - fuller length and moving away from off-stump - Pujara got lucky as the outside edge was not taken by the wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
Pujara also faced the challenge of playing Moeen Ali from the rough. This was the first time in the series that batsmen were threatened by spin. It needed a different mindset.
Pujara had faced a probing over, a maiden, from Moeen before lunch. The first few deliveries were played from the crease, with short leg coming into play. Pujara understood that the best way to negate the rough was to use his feet. For the rest of the day, he hopped out of the crease on several occasions to dab the ball or loft it over the infield.
Pujara's biggest challenge arrived immediately after lunch. Kohli departed with the deficit just over 100. There were about 50 overs left in the day. England found a second wind, and India's middle and lower-order batsmen lost their heads. From 161 for 3, India collapsed to 195 for 8.
Joe Root spread the field and asked his bowlers to aim for Pujara's head. Fine leg, long leg, deep square leg were in place. Pujara lined up to play the hook a couple of times, but resisted the urge - consciously one time, beaten by pace and bounce another. The one time he actually attempted the hook, against Stokes who was bowling from around the stumps, the ball smashed into his helmet. There was minor bump on his right temple. Pujara was on 57. Anderson hit the back of his helmet as well, on 78, but Pujara's focus was not dented.
Pujara got up, thanks in no small measure to his two crutches, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. Pujara had valuable partnerships of 32 and 46 with them, and helped India take a lead that had looked impossible at tea.
It is easy to be desperate in a scenario when you have only the tail for support. But Pujara wasn't. He helped India regain their footing, then draw level with England, and eventually take a lead. England bowled 143 balls at the last two wickets, and Pujara faced 92 of those, scoring 54 runs. Not only did he shepherd the tail safely, he also helped India surge.
When Pujara jumped out for the umpteenth time to loft Moeen back over his head to get to his century, he ran hard, thinking three runs were on offer. Bumrah sent him back, but two runs were enough to get to the hundred. Pujara removed his helmet and raised both hands to celebrate his 15 Test century, his first outside Asia since the 153 in Johannesburg in 2013.
By the time India's innings ended, Pujara had turned a dire situation into one of hope in the dressing room. Levelling this series was still a realistic possibility. Pujara performed the role Kohli had at Edgbaston in the India's first innings of this series. Both were heroic knocks, but Pujara went one step ahead of Kohli - he helped India take a small, but vital, lead.
Gratitude also was not forgotten. On his way up to the dressing room, as the crowd gave him a standing ovation, Pujara stopped to thank one man in particular. A man who would be proud of Pujara's focus, courage and presence of mind. The man was Sanjay Bangar, India's batting coach who has spent hours working in the nets with Pujara.
The most striking aspect of Pujara's innings was that - after a typically watchful start - he looked to score at all times. It did not matter whether it was the early spells from Anderson, Broad and Curran, or the cunning of Moeen. Discipline and bloody-mindedness have always been Pujara's friends. Today he combined those with guts and the intent to score, and the result was glorious.
After 355 minutes of toil and satisfaction, Pujara returned undefeated, having played a great innings.