|Scorecard:||India v England|
|Player:||AJ Strauss, PD Collingwood, Z Khan, V Sehwag|
|Event:||England in India 2008/09|
DateLine: 14th December 2008
Andrew Strauss was in the zone from the first ball that he faced in the Test and in the process became the tenth England batsman to score two hundreds in a Test as he continued his monumental performance in Chennai. Strauss's innings was rarely flamboyant but perfectly in tune with the situation and England's requirements. He was well supported by a resilient Collingwood who also brought up his seventh Test century and second century against India. But the English smiles turned to frowns as Sehwag became the kill-joy. He came out post-tea session and decimated the English bowling. Sehwag hammered the bowlers and was scoring at a good rate till he was dismissed by a ball that kept low. Gambhir played his part in 117 opening run partnership which was made in around 23 overs.
England all the way
Throughout the session Strauss and Collingwood produced sedate, risk free batting and were aided by wide-spread fields from Dhoni who couldn’t afford to attack as England were in a strong position. The pair very cleverly played with the angle of the bowlers and ran the singles and doubles hard. If they felt that they were falling beyond the required rate they would score the occasional boundary.
It has been one of the triumphs for England in this game, the manner in which they have neutralised Harbhajan and he was again picked off with comfort as he bowled too short. Strauss's play against the spinners remained a hallmark of his innings as he drove the Indian bowlers to distraction. Mishra too didn't cause many alarms and the pick of India's attack was Ishant Sharma with an economical early spell.
The best feature of this partnership was that they were looking to keep the scorecard ticking by sneaking in the singles regularly. During the course of their partnership, Strauss scored his second century of the Test match and if the script goes on as per the English plans he is the front-runner for the man-of-the-match award. One year back he was dropped from the Test side due to bad returns and the way he has forced his way back, needs to be applauded. He was patient and did not try anything fancy. He played the waiting game and made the India bowlers to bowl to his strength. His game was based on nudging the ball around and not employing powerful biffs.
By scoring the second century he has become the tenth English batsman since Trescothick who had achieved this feat in 2004. Graham Gooch was the previous batsman to achieve this feat against India. Sachin Tendulkar is only the current member from both the side to witness this feat on the field. Meanwhile Collingwood played his part very well.
Collingwood’s game is based on scrapping and he did not go for any thumping shots other than a powerful hit over mid-wicket of luckless Mishra and a thumping pull of Yuvraj over deep midwicket for another boundary to get into his nineties.
India snatch the second session
Going into the post-lunch session the Indian camp looked soulless but was not shaken. India to their advantage had the factor that Strauss and Collingwood though were building the partnership, did not go biffing or banging the ball around. So by declining the easy flow of runs they had a chance of playing the role of slow-death over the English batsman. The new ball was due but Dhoni still opted for the old ball as it was reverse swinging for Zaheer. Strauss and Collingwood started from where they had left off and then slowly Collingwood completed his seventh century and things were looking ominous for India when Harbhajan finally lured Strauss onto the front foot and he drove a simple catch to extra cover. This was what Harbhajan should have been doing rather than simply bowling quicker and flatter.
With a lead of 332, the situation was set for Andrew Flintoff to tee off, but he fell to the impressive Ishant Sharma. Two bouncers were followed up by a very good leg-cutter which Flintoff duly edged.
Collingwood and Matt Prior were happy edging the score along in singles, before Zaheer trapped Collingwood lbw. Zaheer who has accepted the mantle of spearhead was putting in a huge effort into this match. Further success came his way when he cleaned up Graeme Swann and Steve Harmison to tilt the session in India’s favour when tea was called for. Speculation was rife as to when Pietersen would declare.
Marauding Sehwag provides impetus
Many thought that Pietersen would declare but when Prior and Anderson came out all were surprised. Prior was on look out for quick runs, which was denied by the Indian bowlers and when finally Prior carved one into Sehwag’s lap of Sharma at extra-covers, Pietersen declared. The Sehwag-factor must have played on Pietersen’s mind and if so his batsmen did him no favour by going slowly about.
As Sehwag and Gambhir walked into the field, expectations were high and the English bowlers with a huge score as a cushion had spring in their feet. But their smiles disappeared very quickly as Sehwag dispatched their bowlers to all parts of the ground. Gambhir played a perfect partner for Sehwag as the opening pair tore into the English attack. Panesar was introduced but he found himself being deposited over the mid-wicket boundary in his first over itself. It was brilliant phase of batting display as the bowlers were decimated without any mercy. As usual only Flintoff was able to bring some sanity into the proceedings.
Panesar to counter attack Sehwag employed a leg-side line off attack but Sehwag was not to be perturbed. 117 runs were put on for the first wicket in 23 overs. Swann was called into the attack after few overs he was able to remove Sehwag to a one that kept low. Dravid walked in at number three and with Gambhir saw through the day without further alarms.
Day five promises to be a cracker of the contest and with Sehwag setting up the game for India it promises to entertain the viewing public.