India’s triple-strike leaves England at 68/3 (Tea Report)

December 13th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Harbhajan SinghChennai, Dec 13 (IANS) India fought back after conceding a 75-run first innings lead to have England precariously placed at 68 for three at tea on the third day of the first cricket Test at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here Saturday.Andrew Strauss was batting on 30 and Paul Collingwood on 11 when the umpires called the tea break. England made 316 in the first innings.

England, after restricting India to 241 in the first innings just after lunch, were struggling on a pitch that afforded pronounced turn and unpredictable bounce off the bowler’s footmarks as seamer Ishant Sharma, leg-spinner Amit Mishra and left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh claimed a wicket apiece.

Alistair Cook (9) was first to go, edging Ishant to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps while Ian Bell (7) and skipper Kevin Pietersen (1) departed in consecutive overs.

Bell was caught at short-leg off Mishra with the ball jumping off the spot and Pietersen was trapped plumb in front by Yuvraj, brought on ahead of Harbhajan Singh as England reeled at 43 for three.

India could have had one more wicket, but Dhoni dropped Strauss on 15 in Mishra’s next over.

Earlier, Dhoni, nursing a twisted ankle, struck a timely half-century as India recovered to score 241. Resuming at their overnight score of 155 for six, Dhoni (53) and Harbhajan Singh (40) weathered the England attack with confidence to add 75 runs in 16.5 overs for the seventh wicket to guide India closer to England total.

However, once the partnership was broken, India lost two more wickets in quick succession before the last pair of Amit Mishra (12) and Ishant Sharma (8) knocked off some crucial runs as India reduced the leeway to 75.

While Dhoni batted sensibly with an occasional burst of aggression, Harbhajan played a typical cameo knock, but more importantly, he gave his captain excellent support to ensure that India reduced the margin.

India’s biggest moment of scare was when Dhoni twisted his left ankle while going for a single but soldiered on after receiving medical aid.

England bowled gamely but with little luck. Neither of the fast bowlers, Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison, made much impression though both were generous with short-pitched deliveries.

Likewise, left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and off-spinner Graeme Swann did not trouble the batsmen until Harbhajan offered a tame catch to Ian Bell at short-leg off Panesar.

The ever-improving Panesar nearly had new man Zaheer Khan in the same over after umpire Billy Bowden turned down a confident leg-before appeal.

Flintoff had Zaheer plumb in front. In the next over, Dhoni lofted Panesar to Kevin Pietersen at mid-off.

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