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John Simpson, Cheteshwar Pujara leave Middlesex facing a mountain

Record-breaking partnership drives visitors into the ascendancy at Lord's

Cheteshwar Pujara was back in the run-scoring groove, Sussex vs Durham, County Championship, Division Two, Hove, April 7, 2023

Cheteshwar Pujara was in a run-scoring groove

Middlesex 62 for 1 (Robson 40*) trail Sussex 554 for 9 dec (Simpson 167, Pujara 129) by 492 runs
John Simpson and Cheteshwar Pujara completed centuries on a day when Sussex re-wrote their record books not once but twice as they continued to dominate this Vitality County Championship clash with hosts Middlesex at Lord's.
Simpson, who made 10 centuries in 15 years with the Seaxes, got the second of his short tenure as Sussex skipper, eventually making 167 while Pujara posted 129 in a score of 554 for 9 that eclipsed their previous best against the hosts of 550 for 9 at Hove in 1980.
Simpson and Pujara shared a stand of 223 for the fifth wicket to erase the previous best against Middlesex of 216 by Kepler Wessels and Colin Wells in that same match 34 years ago.
Middlesex for whom Ethan Bamber took 3 for 114, lost Mark Stoneman early in their reply, but Sam Robson, unbeaten on 40 and Max Holden saw them through to stumps at 62 for 1 without further alarm. They will require a further 343 on day three to avoid the follow-on.
Resuming on 295 for 4, Sussex were obviously conscious of head coach Paul Farbrace's words at close the night before about not undoing the good work of day one as Pujara and Simpson adopted a cautious approach, so much so, only eight runs came in the first 10 overs.
Pujara, in the last game of his latest stint at Hove, 91 not out overnight, took 43 minutes to add to his score, though in truth he never looked ruffled by his lack of progress.
The Indian Test veteran won the race to 100, pulling a short ball from Henry Brookes to the fence behind square, but with three overs to go until the 110-over cut-off for bonus points, the visitors were still some way short of 350.
The fact they got there was down to Simpson, who skated through the 90s with a trio of boundaries, two back past the bowler and a third caressed deliciously through extra cover to take him to his 12th first-class century. Even so, Sussex needed a no-ball from Brookes off what should have been the final ball of the 110th to glean the third batting bonus-point.
The efforts of Wessels and Wells were consigned to history shortly before lunch, but the stand ended within four balls of the resumption, Pujara hitting a full toss from Nathan Fernandes straight into the hands of Stoneman at mid-wicket.
If we were expecting a full-on push towards a declaration it didn't materialise in an afternoon which meandered along with a distinct lack of tempo.
Fynn Hudson-Prentice tried to press the go button only to get too far leg-side of a long-hop from Luke Hollman and feather it through to Jack Davies.
As Middlesex adopted a defensive pose in the field, daring Sussex to force the pace, Simpson, who survived playing a Hollman delivery into his helmet, continued his steady accumulation to pass 150.
He fell to almost his first attempt at something unorthodox, Bamber pegging back his leg stump after he missed an attempted scoop.
Danny Lamb tried nothing as extravagant in a painstaking 49 before chipping one back to the persevering Hollman an act which finally provoked a declaration.
Middlesex dragged tired bodies and minds off the field and the suspicion was that England seamer Ollie Robinson - who'd made a sprightly unbeaten 22 - and Division Two's leading wicket taker at the start of the round, Jayden Seales, would prove to be a tricky prospect in the 19 overs that remained. Robinson, under pressure for his Test place against West Indies in July, didn't wait long to make his case.
The seamer, bowling from the Pavilion End beat the outside edge of Stoneman's bat four times in one over before getting the nick in his next to send the former England opener packing for four.

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