Andrew Strauss once again came in India’s way to consolidate his team’s chances of winning the Chennai Test. Along with a busy Paul Collingwood, Strauss got England out of the woods from 43 for 3 to 172 for 3 at close of play on Day 3. The left hander is eyeing a second century in this match and as a result of that England are sitting pretty with an overall lead of 247. Early on, India got bowled out for 241 to concede a crucial lead of 75.
Morning Session: Dhoni, Bhajji revive India’s chances but England comeback strongly
Facing a huge deficit of 161 runs, Skipper MS Dhoni and the lower order needed to pull off a rear guard action to bring India back in the match. Dhoni along with Harbhajan Singh was in total control of the proceedings to begin with against some potent bowling. The two batsmen got their runs at a fair clip to bring down the deficit. It was in the 61st over that this partnership was finally broken when Harbhajan flicked Monty Panesar straight to short leg. It took nearly 17 overs for the bowlers to dismantle this valuable 75-run stand for the 7th wicket. Harbhajan made a neat 40 with 7 fours from 58 balls. After that opening, England went onto take two more crucial wickets that of Zaheer (lbw to a reversing inswinger from Flintoff) and Dhoni, who holed out to long off to a Panesar delivery. The Indian Captain was the top scorer of the innings with 53 from 82 balls with 5 fours. India went to lunch at 241 for 9 in 69 overs with the last pair of Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma hanging in there.
Afternoon Session: England fritter away advantage
Immediately after lunch, Flintoff bowled one fast and straight to clean up Amit Mishra in the very first over of the session. Mishra had Ishant had added up a crucial 22 runs for the last wicket. England with a lead of 75 started well as the new ball did nothing. Ishant Sharma was struggling with his rhythm but was persisted with and the tall lanky bowler provided the breakthrough in the 10th over when he forced Cook (9) to nick him behind. Leg spinner Amit Mishra provided the next success for his team just a few balls after that when his googly produced a bat pad edge from a tentative Ian Bell (7). In the very next over, that is in the 14th, Yuvraj’s golden arm accounted for the big wicket of Kevin Pietersen. It was tremendous captaincy from MS Dhoni to bring on Yuvraj very early in the attack just for Pietersen’s presence in the middle. KP (1) who is now becoming a real bunny of the part time left arm spinner defended along the wrong line to a round arm delivery to be dead infront of the stumps. England avoided further damage before Tea and went at 68 for 3, a lead of 143.
Final Session: Strauss, Collingwood put India at bay
The last session was totally flat for the Indians. With already three wickets down, all it needed was the Turbanator to join the party and mop up the English batting. But Harbhajan Singh found no joy in his bowling and his team suffered because of his lack of penetration. Andrew Strauss gave no inch to the bowlers as he kept playing late on the backfoot and his partner Collingwood responded well with his good running between the wickets. There was a difficult chance to the keeper that went begging off Mishra with the batsman being Strauss. Barring that, the two batsmen never gave any chance to the Indians and kept on piling up the runs.
The Indian bowlers found the pitch to be too docile towards the end as Strauss and Collingwood remained undefeated right through the 33-over session. England collected 105 runs in that with Strauss moving onto 73 from 150 balls with 5 fours and Collingwood making 60 from 133 balls with 6 fours. It will now depend on how well the Indian batsmen play in their second essay as England are surely going to put up a difficult target on a wearing Chennai wicket.