Pujara slams hundred for Sussex, first in first-class cricket in more than two years

Cheteshwar Pujara struck his first first-class hundred in more than two years in a County Championship match between Sussex and Derbyshire on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Cheteshwar Pujara's century comes at a time when he finds himself fighting for a way back into the Indian Test squad following a dramatic slump in form over the last couple of years.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Cheteshwar Pujara struck his first first-class hundred in more than two years in a County Championship match for Sussex against Derbyshire on Sunday.

Pujara reached the landmark in 237 balls with a flick through mid wicket and brought up his 51st score of hundred or more in first-class cricket. Earlier, the right-handed batter was dismissed for a 15-ball 6 as Sussex was skittled out for 174 in its first innings in response to Derbyshire's 505 for eight declared.

The veteran batter, who has had a lean patch of late, last scored a hundred in January 2020 for Saurashtra against Karnataka in a Ranji Trophy match. His last Test century came in January 2019 against Australia in Sydney. In his most recent Test series for the national side, Pujara only managed 124 runs in six innings against South Africa while averaging 20.66.

The 34-year-old was excluded from India's squad for the Test series against Sri Lanka in February, along with Ajinkya Rahane, following a slump in form that has seen him averaging 26.29 since the beginning of 2020 in the longest format. In the recently concluded group stage of Ranji Trophy 2021-22, Pujara scored 191 runs in five innings at an average of 47.75, including a 91 against Mumbai.

With 18 hundreds and 52 fifties in 95 Test matches, Pujara has been a mainstay of the Indian middle-order. He has scored 6713 runs at an average of 43.87 in the longest format and 51 runs in five One-Day Internationals.

The Rajkot-born batter was roped in by defending champion Chennai Super Kings for his base price of Rs. 50 lakh at the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction but went unsold this year. In 30 IPL matches, Pujara has scored 390 runs at a strike rate of 99.74 with a solitary half-century to his name.

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