Cheteshwar Pujara does it again, this time as Sussex's captain

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08 Apr 2023 | 03:37 AM staff

Cheteshwar Pujara does it again, this time as Sussex's captain

Pujara picks up from where he left last season

The County cricket ground in Hove has seen several top cricketers over the last few years but India’s Cheteshwar Pujara might be the best of it all. With the official takeover of the Baz-ball era in England, there were questions over how the counties would approach red-ball cricket this season. 

But Pujara yet again showed that Baz-ball might be the flavour of the season, his vanilla-style batting too could have more suitors than ever. Over the last two years, no one has scored as many runs as he has for the Sharks in First-Class cricket, and no one has looked as assured while going at it. 

Earlier in the clash, Durham, courtesy of their top-order - Alex Lees and Michael Jones - had got themselves to 376, where they tested the Sussex bowlers and the captain Pujara, who had to show tactical acumen with his field setups. In reply, at 86/3, Sussex needed more than a saving hand, they needed someone to press the foot on the pedal. 

And, there he was just like he does it always, Pujara walked in to soak all the pressure. The sponge that Pujara is, aided the Sharks more than ever, as he meticulously took on the bowlers, with an attacking brand of cricket. At one point, Pujara’s strike-rate read 80, which is an anomaly for the cricket fans, as he thwarted the Durham stronghold with some thunderbolts, including smashing boundaries for fun. 

Pujara alongside Oliver Carter put up a real show with the bat, as the duo stitched together a partnership that was as valuable as gold dust. The duo put on a 112-run stand before Carter was dismissed. However, Sussex’s skipper Pujara at the other end brought up his first century of the season when he Brydon Carse for back-to-back boundaries in the 55th over of the second day. 

Helmet off, bat raised, Pujara yet again showed why he is the crisis man, and possibly one of the best to lead the County over the last two years. Pujara naturally, picked up from where he left the last season, where he was head, shoulders and sometimes everything over the other best batters in the league. In doing so, Pujara only grew more and more in stature in the eyes of the Sharks' fans, who on a bank holiday, were treated to some of the best cricket that they will see this season.

Sussex had distributed 2000 free tickets for the clash, and the age-old Pujara ensured that it wasn't a regret for the fans racking up, a stunning century on his full-time captaincy debut for the Sharks. Last season, for the Sharks, the right-hander piled up 1094 runs in just eight games that saw him rack up five hundreds, winning the hearts and the support of the Sharks’ faithful at the Hove. 

But it was unfinished business for the Indian batter, who returned for a second season in a row with some vengeance in his batting. 

Pujara wasn’t in the best of forms during India’s home tour against Australia, where he had the solitary half-century, and with no red-ball cricket anywhere around in the world, County was his best choice ahead of the World Test Championship final. Not only did Pujara send out a sound warning to the Aussies, but he also sent out a strong message to the Indian management on his credentials in English conditions, before the WTC final. 

Even after scoring a century, and his team getting to 332, Pujara at the end of the day’s play, said that “his team could have batted a little better” but at the same time believed that if the tenth wicket partnership does give them more runs, a total of 350-360 could be threatening. 

“I love batting on this pitch, it is important to get off to a good start. Really happy with how things went today,” Pujara said at the end of the day’s play. 

“There were a couple of important partnerships, first with Carts (Carter) and with Georgy (Garton) as well. Things that I have been working on have been paying off, and as a batter when you start well, you feel more confident. I hope that I can carry on from here, and score more runs in the season,” he added.

But what set Pujara the skipper apart was what he said at the end of his chat with Sussex, even if the target is 350-375, I think we can chase it down, and that belief at the end of the day, is what makes Pujara Pujara.

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