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Sussex steal march as Cheteshwar Pujara punishes Middlesex again

Visitors prosper after being inserted as John Simpson returns to haunt his former club

Cheteshwar Pujara is watchful, Worcestershire vs Sussex, County Championship, Division Two, New Road, 2nd day, May 5, 2023

Cheteshwar Pujara made Middlesex suffer once again  •  Getty Images

Sussex 295 for 4 (Pujara 91*, Simpson 71*) vs Middlesex
Cheteshwar Pujara plundered runs against Middlesex's bowling attack yet again as Sussex posted 295 for 4 after being inserted in the battle between the top two sides in Vitality County Championship Division Two.
The India Test veteran, who scored 231 on Sussex's last visit to Lord's in 2022 - along with a century against Middlesex at Hove earlier that year - ended the opening day unbeaten on 91. Pujara's patient knock formed part of an unbroken stand of 131 with his captain and ex-Middlesex wicketkeeper John Simpson, who struck 71 not out on his return to the county where he spent 15 seasons.
Ethan Bamber claimed two wickets for the home side, with Ryan Higgins and Henry Brookes taking one apiece.
Middlesex's decision to bowl after winning the toss initially looked questionable as Tom Clark and Tom Haines bustled along at around five an over, with the latter dispatching five consecutive Bamber deliveries to the rope. Bamber was hastily switched to his preferred Nursery End and, despite Haines immediately drilling him to the cover fence once more, he had the final say by bowling the Sussex man through the gate for 40.
That broke the opening partnership of 66 and slowed the scoring rate significantly as the home side claimed two more wickets before lunch, with Higgins having Clark caught behind off a bottom edge. Having also seen Tom Alsop put down off his bowling in the cordon, Higgins then pulled off a blinding catch when the left-hander edged Brookes to third slip, twisting to his left to clasp a sharp chance just above the turf.
Higgins, whose first delivery to Pujara beat the bat, also tested the 36-year-old with the occasional bouncer before he settled down to make steady progress with James Coles in a partnership of 72 after lunch.
Coles was eventually undone by static footwork when Bamber had him caught behind for 33 and the bowler found a consistent line against former team-mate Simpson, back at Lord's for the first time since his switch to Hove.
Despite some early playing and missing, Simpson settled down with a classy cover-driven boundary off Brookes, keeping Pujara company while he advanced beyond his half-century for the third time this season.
Middlesex rotated their seam quartet, all of whom bowled from each end at some stage and it took them until three overs before tea to introduce spinners Nathan Fernandes and Luke Hollman into the attack. It looked as though that move had paid off early in the final session when Simpson, on 25, slapped a full toss from Hollman straight to Max Holden in the deep - only for the umpire to signal a no-ball.
The Sussex skipper capitalised on that escape, dancing down the track to slam Hollman to the boundary and chopping him through gully for two to secure the visitors' first batting bonus point.
There was another let-off for Simpson soon after passing 50, fencing a rising delivery from Tom Helm to gully, where Hollman was unable to cling on - and the visitors continued to build a strong platform until bad light ended play with six overs unbowled.

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County Championship Division Two