What’s the story?
Indian Test cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara slammed a fine century on his home debut for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship Division Two match against Gloucestershire that got underway on Thursday at Trent Bridge. He helped his side reach a total of 357/5 at stumps on Day 1.
Drafted into the side as a short-term replacement for Australian James Pattinson who has been called up by Australia for their 15-man ICC Champions Trophy squad, Pujara, struck 13 fours along the way as he brought up his three-figure mark off 174 balls. He was eventually dismissed for 112, bringing an end to the 185-run stand he had shared with Michael Lumb for the fourth wicket.
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Having played for Derbyshire in 2014 and Yorkshire a year later, this is Pujara’s third stint in English County cricket and one which will be restricted to just four matches as Pattinson is set to return to the Nottinghamshire squad once Australia’s Champions Trophy campaign comes to an end.
After a disappointing return of just two runs in his first game of the 2017 campaign against Glamorgan, Pujara ensured that he made his mark on Thursday with a classy knock that came on a day which saw Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara grabbing the headlines with his fifth successive County Championship century.
The heart of the matter
Despite impressing in the India’s winning home Test series run against the likes of New Zealand, England, and Australia, Pujara found no takers at the IPL auctions as he was left without a franchise for the third season running.
Virender Sehwag, the head coach of Pujara’s former side Kings XI Punjab, even criticised the 29-year-old Saurashtra cricketer for not adapting his style of play to the modern game the way someone like South Africa’s Hashim Amla has done.
However, Pujara showed that he is one of the best when it comes to the longer formats of the game as he vindicated Nottinghamshire’s Director of Cricket Mick Newell’s brave call to replace an in-form fast bowler in James Pattinson, who has taken 20 wickets thus far this season, with a batsman.
Having endured a lean spell on his last visit to England with the Indian team in 2014, Pujara will be thrilled at getting this opportunity, albeit a short one, to get himself acquainted with the conditions in England – something former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin had wanted him to do desperately.
Pujara will have time for two more matches in England, with Gloucestershire yet again being the opponent on their home turf at Bristol County Ground. He will have another chance to impress at his team’s home ground before that though with Nottinghamshire set to play hosts to Derbyshire in their next County fixture on June 2.
Pujara is a class act when it comes to the longest format of the game and he has been showing that consistently for quite some time now with the Indian Test side. The tour to England in 2014 was one in which he was found wanting and it will be a good experience for Pujara, no matter how short the duration may be, as he aims to get some runs and match practice under his belt before India’s next Test assignment.Published 27 May 2017, 11:03 IST