|Scorecard:||India v England|
|Player:||AJ Strauss, AN Cook, IR Bell, Z Khan, Harbhajan Singh, A Flintoff|
|Event:||England in India 2008/09|
DateLine: 11th December 2008
After returning to India for playing the Test series, Kevin Pietersen did a favour for his team by winning the toss so that they could make use of the benign track at Chennai which was devoid of any grass. The pitch looked to the common eye a batting beauty and Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook made most of the lifeless track at MA Chidambaram Stadium. Both played within their limitations and Dhoni sensing their comfort level at the wicket brought Harbhajan on as early as the 9th over of the day. Then slowly he relinquished the fast men, Zaheer and Ishant of their duties and handed the ball to both the spinners. Both Strauss and Cook played within their limitations and it was evident by their style of play that they intended to see the first session off without any damage done.
Cook produced the shot of the morning, a straight drive against Zaheer which comfortably made the boundary despite the outfield being slow due to the recent rain. If anyone knows how to perform without much preparation its Cook: in 2006, he was thrown in for a Test debut in Nagpur, just two days after arriving from the Caribbean. India managed to get the ball changed in the 18th over, and although the replacement ball began to do more for the bowlers, the breakthrough didn't materialize. The England openers set a launching pad when they went back to their dressing room with the score reading 63 for no loss in 27 overs. Dhoni might have sensed that he may be having a long day today.
Consolidation process continues
After the lunch break, Dhoni continued with the two spinners but there was no respite for the India camp. After the break the scoring tempo increased with Strauss and Cook picking up boundaries at will. The deliveries that they had left with will in the first session they attacked with gusto in second session and with every stroke the Indian bowling began to look listless. The swing and canniness of Zaheer as seen in the Australian series was gone, Sharma though he was cranking up pace was looking to just bowl out his spell, Harbhajan was bowling with little imagination, by just spearing the ball into the leg stump line while Amit Mishra was intent on bowling shorter.
Both the batsmen Strauss and Cook crossed their respective fifties with the hundred run stand coming up very quickly. The sweep shots were employed aplenty as the spinners began to lose the plot. Then against the run of play Cook tried one shot too many and top edged his attempted sweep to Zaheer Khan at mid-on to give India their first wicket. But Strauss was undeterred and went from strength to strength and his sweep shots began to look more refined and perfect. The spinners when erred in line he duly punished them. But Bell the other batsman in the crease was slightly uncomfortable and faced some anxious questions against Harbhajan.
The case with Harbhajan is now a well documented fact. When he is under attack he immediately speeds up his deliveries and ends up looking a part-time bowler than a front-line spinner, but when he slows up his pace he looks threatening and it is not less illustrated by the way he troubled Bell with some close shouts. But England to their credit managed to hold on and going into the tea session they had scored 101 runs with the loss of one wicket with Strauss nearing his 13th century. The score at tea showed England at 164/1
India strike back in style
Just when the experts and commentators alike were looking at a score of around 300 for the day, Dhoni once again gave a pep talk to his wards, lifted their spirits and Zaheer with the second ball of the final session removed Bell plumb leg before to a beautiful delivery. Then the battle of Zaheer with Strauss and Pietersen was a fascinating one. Yuvraj Singh was introduced into the attack and his battle with Pietersen was also an interesting one. Strauss meanwhile moved slowly towards his 13th century. Pietersen meanwhile played an ugly hoick to a well planned bouncer by Zaheer Khan and gifted away his wicket. The Indian camp sensed an opening and rightly went for the kill.
Paul Collingwood scratched around for sometime for his 9 and was unluckily given out to a bat-pad catch of Harbhajan Singh. The ball clearly thudded onto his pad and the sound of the bat hitting the pad made Billy Bowden to give Collingwood his marching orders. Meanwhile Strauss was opening up slowly and was looking to play a really long innings. Just when everything was falling into place Mishra after a poor first and second spell was brought back and he immediately removed Strauss. James Anderson, sent as the night watchman, together with Flintoff negotiated the final moments of the day’s passage.