Published On: Sat, Apr 21st, 2018

Pujara's running issues reach Yorkshire but Ballance holds firm

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Yorkshire 256 and 189 for 4 (Ballance 76*) lead Nottinghamshire 188 (Taylor 57, Coad 4-49) by 257 runs
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Cheteshwar Pujara is just the sort of overseas player Yorkshire need this season as they attempt to instil first principles of safety and security into their Championship side. Except that Pujara is also India’s run out specialist. In his most accident prone moments, safety and security don’t really come into it.

Pujara has been instrumental in six of India’s last eight run outs in Tests. He has run himself out on four of those occasions so at least nobody can accuse him of selfishness: the damage is largely to himself. Against South Africa in Centurion in January, he was run out twice in a Test, a misfortune not suffered for 18 years. To make it extra special, one of them was a first-ball duck.

In the switch to Yorkshire, it appears that Pujara’s characteristics remain implanted. His ability to perform on English surfaces, and affinity for the long game, ensured his services are valued in county cricket, but his latest run out came at a critical juncture against Nottinghamshire at Headingley and without a measured response from Yorkshire’s captain Gary Ballance it could have had bad repercussions.

As it was by the close of the second day, Yorkshire’s position was a commanding one. At 189 for 4, they lead by 257, a position built in the last two sessions after they bowled out Nottinghamshire on the stroke of lunch for 188. Ballance will resume the third day on 76, although there is little sense as yet that England are studying his form too closely.

Pujara’s brainstorm came in the 15th over. Yorkshire had already lost Alex Lees, lbw to Jake Ball playing no shot. Pujara had been dropped on nought, an edge against Ball flying through Riki Wessels’ hands at first slip, but thereafter he had reached 18 comfortably enough.

Then Adam Lyth dropped a ball from Harry Gurney at his feet and, although he reacted to Pujara’s appetite for a quick single with a surprised yelp of rejection, he found a stately Indian batsman stood too close to comfort. Pujara turned, but his quest was safety was hopeless and Jake Libby completed the run out from backward point.

Yorkshire have nicknamed him Steve because “Cheteshwar” is too much of a mouthful and, although unexplained, it should be linked to Steve McQueen, the American actor who was known as the King of Cool, but who was not short of a few hair-raising stunts when the mood took him.

When Lyth was caught at the wicket and Harry Brook was cleaned up by Ball, so ending an impressive 36 from 41 balls, Yorkshire were 163 on with six wickets left, far from secure with the pitch settling a little.

Ballance guided the match back into Yorkshire’s favour, spared a confident lbw appeal first ball from Gurney. He looked untroubled, as he did this time last season, a burst of form that won a Test recall, which failed to last the summer.

But with Ed Smith’s elevation to national selector, study of data might be on trend and that would do Ballance no harm at all. No regular county cricketer has a better record when it comes to converting first-class innings into half-centuries (more than 35%) or centuries.

If you can gen up on a few more erudite matters, such as the culinary habits of Greek philosophers, the polarising political qualities of Jacob Rees-Mogg or whether cricket reached peak left-handedness (note to Ballance: best to say “no”) and he might be within range of that recall after all.



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