Sussex head coach Paul Farbrace said “You want the best players playing county cricket” after Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara scored another century on Australian star Steve Smith’s debut for the side.
Pujara, who Farbrace entrusted with the red-ball captaincy after his impressive performances last year, scored his third century of the season, leading his team to a 75-run lead away to Worcestershire on day two.
There were plenty of stars on display at New Road, with England bowler Ollie Robinson lining up alongside Pujara and Smith, and the home side boasting former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali.
Farbrace fully supports English counties having this sort of quality on display, saying: “We want to see the best players.
“To have those three [Smith, Pujara, and Ali], who have been fantastic players in world cricket, in the same game could only be good for county cricketers to play with and against.
“It is a great learning experience.”
Pujara, who has played 102 Test matches for India, scored 136 on day two, his eighth century for Sussex in total. His effort marks a second successive century, adding to his 151 away to Gloucestershire last week.
Farbrace was quick to acknowledge the similarities between last week’s innings and this one. He said: “If you remember last week, he was stuck on five and it seemed like it was one of those where you think, crikey, he’s not going anywhere.
“Once he gets the pace of the wicket, and he works out his scoring area, he scores reasonably quickly from that point. He’s a fantastic player.”
Two wickets in the first two overs brought together Smith, batting for the first time in a Sussex shirt, and Pujara, with the pair boasting 15946 Test runs and 49 centuries between them. There was a bit of controversy shortly after the Australian arrived at the crease, with the umpires forcing him to add a stem protector to his helmet.
Farbrace admitted the umpires were right to act despite the crowd’s impatience, saying: “Steve didn’t have any on and it is mandatory in first-class cricket.
“We had a little bit of [a delay] and it was unfortunate because it started to drizzle and obviously a few members were getting a bit grumpy, which fair enough. I don’t blame him for that.”
“But it wasn’t a deliberate plan to stop the game.”
The pair put on a fourth-wicket partnership of 61, before Josh Tongue pinned Smith in front for 30. Some felt the decision by the umpire was harsh, but these feelings were not replicated by the Sussex coach.
“The game is what it is. You know not every decision goes for you- the umpire felt it was out, fair play.
“He didn’t seem to complain too much. It is part and parcel of the game.”
Sussex were able to put on another 245 runs for the final six wickets, building a first innings lead of 109. This included a swash-buckling innings of 33 from Robinson, including two sixes and an outrageous reserve-scoop for four from the first three balls of a Joe Leach over.
Farbrace was full of praise for Robinson’s cameo, stating the importance of runs from the lower order never wanes.
“He chanced his arm, didn’t he. If one of your final three come out and get 30, 35 runs, it is handy- that was the challenge for all three of them.
“He had Pujara at the other end who was 135 not out, which helps as well, getting in a bit of practice with his reverse scoop.
“I look forward to seeing him do that to Mitchell Starc in the summer.”
Farbrace believes both teams will feel they have let opportunities go begging in the first two days of this Division Two fixture, and feels both sides are still in with a chance for a victory heading into days three and four.
He said: “I think there’s enough in the pitch to get the ball in the right place. Equally, once you get in, it seems with the short boundary you can score quite quickly.
“I don’t think we’d want to be chasing too many in the second innings, I reckon 240, 250 would be about right but there’s a long way to go yet.
“I know it’s boring, but we will only be thinking about the first session. If we could nick two or three before lunch tomorrow before they get level that would put us in a decent position.”