After Gautam Gambhir's ' target='_blank'>sudden departure from Essex this week, the sole Indian representation in county cricket is Piyush Chawla. The 24-year-old legspinner signed with Somerset in mid-August in a bid to boost his chances of a recall to the Indian cricket team - his 36 wickets at 27.25 for Sussex in 2009 earned him a spot in the Twenty20 side - and here's a look at how he has done so far.
Chawla's first appearance for Somerset was in a 40-over match against Bristol; he took 1 for 43 in eight overs and scored 3 as the club won by 12 runs. He failed to take a wicket in his first four-day match, but in the second Chawla did what Sachin Tendulkar has failed to achieve in his glorious career - score a century at Lord's, regarded for decades as the spiritual home of cricket. Batting at No. 9, Chawla made 112 off 170 balls with 12 fours and a pair of sixes against Middlesex on day two of Somerset's recent Championship match, then took 3 for 8 in the home team's first innings. He bowled seven wicketless overs for 23 runs in the second innings but Somerset secured an innings win as they aim to remain in Division One.
"It's an amazing feeling after scoring a 100 at Lord's. It's hard to explain what it means. The applause you get from the crowd while walking the corridors at Lord's - it's just priceless," he later told The Indian Express. "Those who score a first-class hundred at Lord's do not get their name on the honours board but at least I can tell my children in the future that I have a hundred at Lord's."
But Chawla's biggest match was ahead of him. He had been signed on by Somerset primarily to take wickets, and take wickets he did - ten of them, for just the third time in his career. Chawla played a huge role in the team's come-from-behind win over Derbyshire at Taunton, playing big roles on the first, third and fourth days. On Tuesday, Somerset were bowled out for just 103, slipping from 25 for 0 to 75 for 9. Chawla top-scored with a 29-ball 27 which contained five fours in one over and took the total past 100, one of only two batsmen to reach double figures as they posted their second-lowest total of the season. Before the day's play was over, Chawla dismissed Derbyshire's top three batsmen en route to figures of 4 for 87.
On Wednesday, he collected his fifth wicket and finished with 5 for 111, his best returns for Somerset so far. The third day saw Somerset bowled out for 438, setting Derbyshire a target of 244. Before stumps, Chawla picked up two wickets to leave Derbyshire 127 for 4, still 117 runs away from victory.
On Friday, he struck early to have Richard Johnson caught behind for 0 without a run added to the total. Then, in his second and most crucial spell, Chawla removed Tom Poynton with Derbyshire 38 runs from victory, leaving them at 206 for 7. The ball to get Poynton was a half-tracker but the batsman missed it and was given out lbw (such is Chawla's impact, he gets wickets with terrible deliveries). In his following over, he had a charging David Wainwright stumped for his tenth wicket of the game. The innings had turned, thanks to Chawla, in dramatic manner.
He should have had 11 wickets, and that too the biggest of them all in Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but Craig Meschede dropped a catch at mid-off when Chanderpaul tried to go over the top, with 20 runs needed to win. Chanderpaul's battling 74* sealed a two-wicket win for Derbyshire not long after.
Clearly, Chawla is Somerset's match-winner.