India strike back after Strauss century (Lead)

December 11th, 2008 - 7:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan SinghChennai, Dec 11 (IANS) India nullified England’s century run opening stand with three quick wickets in the last session to reduce the visitors to 229 for five on the first day of the first cricket Test at the M. A. Chidambaram stadium here Thursday.Opener Andrew Strauss (123), employing the sweep shot to good effect, scored his third century of the year and 13th of his career to anchor the England innings after putting on 118 runs for the first wicket with Alistair Cook (52) before the Indians struck back in the post-tea session.

England’s hopes of posting a big total now rest on Andrew Flintoff (18 batting), who looked far from convincing. Also at crease was night watchman James Anderson (2 batting).

Paceman Zaheer Khan, in an inspired six-over spell, removed Ian Bell (17) and skipper Kevin Pietersen (4) to put England on a slide. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who had claimed Cook’s wicket during the post-lunch period, dismissed Paul Collingwood (9) who was adjudged caught in the leg trap though the replays showed there was no contact between bat and ball. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra joined the party by getting rid of Strauss late in the day.

England thus wasted an excellent chance of building on the good start that Strauss and Cook had provided, partly due to their own defensive approach and some excellent bowling by the Indians who had appeared rather flat in the morning.

Strauss, the 31-year old former captain, showcased his grit and determination to grind his way to century and, in the process, completed 4,000 runs in Tests in his 54th appearance.

Along with Cook, Strauss batted with caution early on, but did not let any opportunity to play his shots that were far more correct than spectacular. In fact, the left-handed openers complemented each other to post 118 runs for the first wicket.

On their part, the Indian bowling appeared rather innocuous in the first session. Though they kept it tight on a pitch on which they had to bend their backs for any assistance, none of the bowlers looked penetrative even as the England openers prospered before Cook fell as he top-edged an intended sweep off Harbhajan to offer a simple catch to mid-on.

After Cook’s departure, Bell and Strauss continued in the same vein while skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni rotated his bowlers, but to no effect as the two batsmen went in for tea unseparated.

The game, however, turned on its head in the post-tea session when Zaheer struck twice in his first and fourth overs. He bent one back into Bell who was caught plumb in front and then took the prized wicket of Pietersen who skied a return catch miscuing a hook shot as England slid to 180 for three.

Then came Collingwood’s controversial dismissal with umpire Billy Bowden upholding an appeal for catch by short-leg fielder Gautam Gambhir off Harbhajan.

Mishra, wicketless for 15 overs, struck a vital blow late in the day, diving to his left to accept a return catch to send back Strauss.

Zaheer was the pick of the bowlers. His third spell was bowled with considerable pace and fire.

The pitch, which offered some bounce earlier in the day, afforded some turn for the slower bowlers. Spinners are likely to dominate the latter half of the match.

At the start of the day, the teams observed two minutes silence in memory of the victims of the Mumbai attacks.

As expected, India brought in Gambhir and Yuvraj in place of Murali Vijay and the retired Sourav Ganguly who were part of the team that played Australia in the last Test at Nagpur.

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