Cheteshwar Pujara found a different gear to his game with a 79-ball 107 for Sussex against Warwickshire in a Royal London One-Day Cup match in Birmingham on Friday.
His scorching knock included a 22-run over, in which he reeled off three fours and a six off Liam Norwell in the 45 th over to give Sussex - which eventually fell short by four runs - a shot at chasing a mammoth 311 in 50 overs.
The 34-year-old Test is coming off a sensational stint in the County Championship Division Two, where he was the second-highest run-getter with 1094 runs in 13 innings at average of 109.40. His five scores of 100+ during the season included three double-hundreds, the last of them (231) coming on his County Championship captaincy debut against Middlesex in July.
Pujara’s unbeaten 201 in his first outing of the season against Derbyshire in April was his first triple-digit score in First-Class cricket in more than two years. His last hundred before that had come in January 2020 for Saurashtra against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match.
A torrent of runs for Sussex eventually earned him a recall to the national side for the rescheduled fifth Test against England in July, in which he scored 13 and 66 while opening the batting.
Having long been a mainstay in the Indian middle-order in Test cricket, Pujara had been dropped from the squad for the home series against Sri Lanka in February, following a lean patch that had seen him average 26.29 since the beginning of 2020 in the longest format.
In the Test series in South Africa, India’s last red-ball outing before the Sri Lanka, Pujara had only managed 124 runs in six innings while averaging 20.66. Following his exclusion from the Test squad, Pujara plied his trade in the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 season, in which he scored 191 runs in five innings at an average of 47.75, including a 91 against Mumbai.
Pujara’s slump in form has also significantly dented his overall Test career average, which now stands at 43.81. With the race for a spot in the World Test Championship final heating up, India will hope Pujara can replicate his form in the English domestic circuit at the international level and score his 19 th Test ton – which has eluded him since January 2019 – sooner than later.