First Test, Chennai (day one, stumps): England 229-5 v India
By Oliver Brett
Strauss's performance was remarkable considering his limited preparation
Andrew Strauss hit a superb 123 but England collapsed from 164-1 to close day one of the first Test on 229-5 as India came roaring back in Chennai.
Strauss, who put on 118 for the first wicket with Alastair Cook (52), drove a catch back to Amit Mishra late in the day as England lost their way.
Zaheer Khan took two wickets including Kevin Pietersen for four and Paul Collingwood received an awful decision.
A massive security presence and a muted, sparse crowd looked on.
Emotions remain raw in India following the 26 November terror attacks in Mumbai, but the ability of administrators to salvage this Test series has been one of the major positives in the subcontinent since then.
That being the case, it was disappointing to see the spectators outnumbered by the ranks of Black Cat army commandos and policemen employed to ensure both teams' security.
Nothing was left to chance, with snipers in position and special netting stretched across the front of the players' balcony.
After Kevin Pietersen had won an important toss, Strauss and Cook immediately gave the impression they were prepared to build patiently, a luxury not afforded England's batsmen during November's one-day series in India, which was lost 5-0.
Strauss, 31, bore no scars from that rubber as England view him as a Test specialist - but his severely limited preparation proved no hindrance in a six-hour innings featuring 15 boundaries from 233 deliveries.
The scoring was opened with a few neat deflections, including a leg-glance for four by Strauss.
A confident cover-drive by Cook off Ishant Sharma brought the Essex man his first boundary and he followed up with a square drive for four off Harbhajan Singh.
Guards keep close watch on affairs at the MA Chidambaram stadium
Spin was introduced as early as the ninth over amid signs that on a slow wicket there was little conventional swing and seam available to the seamers.
Cook continued with a checked punch down the ground for four more off Zaheer, while Strauss opened up when the leg-spin of Mishra was introduced, sweeping the inexperienced slow bowler for two more boundaries.
Interestingly, he had not scored a single run on the off-side by lunch which he and Cook both took with 31 runs to their names in a total of 63-0.
That immediately changed when Strauss punched three back-foot boundaries off Harbhajan, the first through the covers, and the second two behind point.
But at the other end he almost lost his wicket when edging Mishra to first slip - replays suggesting a strong possibility Strauss had squeezed the ball into the ground before it looped up to Rahul Dravid, and the third umpire ruled in favour of the batsman.
Boundaries were coming with more regularity, including a Cook slog-sweep for four off Mishra as both batsmen raised their half-centuries.
Attempting the same slog-sweep off Harbhajan, against the spin, Cook was less fortunate however. The ball ballooned straight to Zaheer at mid-on and the fielder made no mistake.
Strauss continued to bat at the perfect tempo, moving into the 90s with two sweeps off Virender Sehwag as India captain Mahendra Dhoni felt the need to try the part-time bowlers.
At tea, England were in a powerful position at 164-1 but two balls into the final session, Strauss lost his second partner, Ian Bell, when England's number three was defeated by Zaheer's reverse swing and departed lbw.
Zaheer was finding lavish movement in both directions, but Strauss held firm and remained patient, finally deflecting a delivery safely down to third man for his 13th Test century, his second in India and third of the calendar year.
It was another wonderful personal triumph for a man who started the year with major question-marks over his long-term Test future, and his build-up to this match had been sketchy in the extreme.
TMS Close of Play - 1st Test, day one
After the English county season, the only organised cricket he had appeared in was Middlesex's unsuccessful stint in the Stanford Super Series in Antigua in October.
When two wickets then fell at the other end, England were suddenly in trouble.
Pietersen never settled and gave a return catch to the impressive Zaheer as an attempted pull shot went horribly wrong.
Collingwood, battling away without great conviction, had nevertheless begun to get his innings going when he was the victim of a poor piece of umpiring from Billy Bowden, who gave the batsman out caught at short leg off Harbhajan.
Replays suggested Collingwood's bat was not within nine inches of the ball, a fact reinforced by some interesting signals exchanged by Pietersen and England coach Peter Moores on the dressing-room balcony.
Mahendra Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh celebrate as the tide turns
A parallel Test series in New Zealand, featuring West Indies, is allowing the players - not only the on-field umpires - to refer decisions to the third official. How England must have wanted that to be the case here.
The new man at the crease was Flintoff, never an assured starter against spin. By the hour, the pitch was taking increasing turn, and the two batsmen turned their focus squarely to preservation.
However, plan B also failed as Strauss's resistance was ended by Mishra with barely six overs left in the day, completing an excellent third session for India.
At stumps, Flintoff was unbeaten on 18 off 64 balls with night-watchman James Anderson - lucky to survive an early appeal - on two.
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