Hurricane innings from Sehwag pushes England on backfoot (Round-up)

December 14th, 2008 - 7:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Dec 14 (IANS) Virender Sehwag’s blitzkrieg brightened India’s hope to overhaul England’s target of 387 in the first cricket Test at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium here Sunday. India now need to score 256 from 90 overs on the last day.Chasing a target of 387 in 126 overs, India were 131 for one at stumps on the fourth day Sunday after England declared their second innings at 311 for nine with Andrew Strauss(108) and Paul Collingwood (108) scoring centuries.

Sehwag led India’s charge with 83 (102m, 68b, 4×6, 11×4) off 68 balls as he put on 117 in just 23 overs along with a watchful Gautam Gambhir (41 batting).

Keeping Gambhir company was the out-of-form Rahul Dravid (2) whose two singles evoked sarcastic cheers from the crowd.

Sehwag produced some sensational batting as though it were a Twenty20 game. Three sixes, off newball bowler Steve Harmison over third man and then over midwicket and straight field off left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who was introduced into the attack in the fifth over, stamped his dominance.

So much so that India’s 50 came in the sixth over and the 100 in 18 while Sehwag took just 32 deliveries to get to his half-century to keep England under pressure as runs flowed rather freely.

Harmison went for 33 runs in his four overs while James Anderson, his new ball partner, conceded 15 in two overs. It was exhilarating batting that sent the estimated 20,000 crowd into raptures.

However, the introduction of Andrew Flintoff reigned in the flying Sehwag, but not for long. He slammed off-spinner Graeme Swann in his fifth over, but was trapped in front off the very next delivery, just 17 runs short of his century to bring to an end the most entertaining phase of the Test match.

Earlier, opener Strauss (108, 397m, 244b, 8 x 4)) and Collingwood (108, 374m, 250b, 9 x 4) with their 214-run partnership for the fourth wicket, provided England a solid base, but the pair consumed a lot of time.

Admittedly, the pitch, on the slower side, was not exactly a batsman’s paradise, but England did not show any kind of urgency as the proceedings merely ambled along. The second session of the day produced mere 57 runs in 22.5 overs.

Strauss completed his second century of the match and along with Collingwood, ground the Indian attack to near helplessness. The pair was more intent on keeping the wickets intact while making little attempt to force the pace.

There was little to separate the two batsmen in terms of strokeplay as both showcased their patience and concentration much more than any appreciable range of strokes.

Strauss reached his second century of the match with a single to midwicket after having batted for 348 minutes and struck seven boundaries.

At the other end, Collingwood, looking equally solid, inched his way to his eighth century in 40 Tests.

As the partnership prospered, the Indians grew in desperation, but with the pitch offering precious little encouragement, the chance of taking wicket lay more in the batsmen committing an error rather than the bowlers forcing one.

Into the second hour of the post-lunch session, seamers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma made deep inroads after Strauss played a lazy shot off Harbhajan Singh to offer Laxman at covers a simple catch.

Ishant Sharma bowled an incisive over to Andrew Flintoff, softening the batsman with two short-pitched deliveries before inducing a snick to Dhoni.

Zaheer Khan, replacing Ishant, then removed Collingwood with an in-dipper, catching the batsman plumb in front and the fast bowler went on to castle Graeme Swann and Steve Harmison at the stroke of tea.

About 16 minutes after the tea interval, Ishant picked up his third wicket of the innings by having Prior caught by Sehwag.

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