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India in control despite Strauss ton

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England had a dismal last session at the MA Chidambaram Stadium to waste a fine century opening stand from Strauss and Cook. The visitors ended the first day’s play of the 1st Test on a disappointing note at 229 for 5 despite Andrew Strauss scoring a century. The Indian bowlers made a superb comeback in the final session by capturing four wickets at the cost of just over 60 runs in 33 overs. More importantly, all the 90 overs were bowled inspite of the serious rain threat ahead of the game. It was a day when International Cricket made a comeback on Indian soil after the dastardly terror attacks in Mumbai that had shaken the entire nation. Below is how the day’s play had panned out.

Toss: Kevin Pietersen called it right and that gave his side the opportunity to bat first in placid batting conditions. India made a couple of changes from the side that beat Australia at Nagpur last month ago. Murali Vijay made way for Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh took over the Sourav Ganguly spot in the team. England named a predictable XI that had two specialist spinners. Graeme Swann, the off spinner was given his Test Debut.

Morning Session: England put in an old-fashioned start

The new ball hardly did anything for Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, batting was supposed to be a cakewalk. And the out of rhythm pair of Cook and Strauss could bat themselves in. However, they weren’t too many shots played around to rattle the Indian bowlers. It was an overly cautious start from the two left handers. MS Dhoni soon realized that spin was the order of the day as he got Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra in action. After the first hour, Strauss started to play some forceful sweeps and Cook kept on rotating the strike with ease. India found no success at all as the visitors went to lunch at 63 for no loss in 27 overs with both batsmen on 31 each.

Afternoon Session: England lose momentum after a promising start

The English openers began the afternoon start in a busy fashion as they got their runs at around 4.00 runs per over. Mishra in particular was giving away a few runs but his spin partner Harbhajan came to the team’s rescue by inducing a hasty slog from Alastair Cook. India got its much needed breakthrough in the 40th over as Cook miscued one towards mid on. Cook scored 52 with 5 fours from 116 balls in an opening stand of 118. England once again went into a shell and could just keep the wickets intact in the rest of the session as Ian Bell tried to come in terms of the double spin attack while Strauss was consolidating towards a hundred. At Tea, England went at 164 for 1, which meant an addition of 101 runs in 30 overs.

Final Session: England lose the plot completely

MS Dhoni made an interesting bowling change straightaway after Tea as he got Zaheer Khan to bowl the first over. The ball was a changed one after the original one had shape problems right from the start. Zaheer found some reverse swing with this ball and cleverly trapped Ian Bell lbw in just the second delivery of the first over of the session. Bell (17 from 51 balls) played right across the line and was caught plumb infront as the ball held its line. It was a different game altogether now as Zaheer was making the ball talk and life was too difficult for the new man Kevin Pietersen. At the other end, Yuvraj Singh, who was having a decent bowl managed to confuse KP with his art of spinning rarely.

Kevin Pietersen had a real struggle in the middle at either ends but he could see his partner Strauss get to a 13th test century. Zaheer Khan deservingly got success as he surprised KP with a bouncer and the tall man couldn’t resist himself from going for an impulsive hook shot. The result was a miscued hit which went nowhere else but down in the bowler’s hands. Pietersen never looked comfortable at all in his 33-balls stay. His successor to the crease – Paul Collingwood also had a similar struggle against the swinging ball and the spinner. Collingwood though had an unlucky exit from the scene when he was adjudged caught bat pad off Harbhajan Singh although his bat was no way near the ball.

England now slipped down to 195 for 4 in the 73rd over and it needed Strauss to convert his century into a much bigger one. Strauss looked good for that until he played a casual flick shot uppishly back to Amit Mishra who flung himself to his left to take a return catch. Strauss scored 123 with 15 fours in 233 balls while England found themselves at 221 for 5. Strauss scored mostly square of the wicket on both sides but his innings didn’t really have the flourishing drives and flicks. Andrew Flintoff battled through the remaining part of the session with his defensive approach and along with him, night watchman Anderson survived as well. Flintoff remained unbeaten on 18 from 64 balls while Anderson had blocked 17 balls. The pick of the bowlers was Zaheer Khan with tidy figures of 17-7-36-2.

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