First Test, Chennai (day three, stumps): England 316 & 172-3 v India 241
By Oliver Brett
Strauss has been the outstanding performer in the match to date
Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood batted England into a commanding 247-run lead with two days remaining in the first Test against India in Chennai.
Strauss, a centurion in the first innings, was 73 and Collingwood 60 in an unbroken 129 for the fourth wicket.
After India had been dismissed for 241 four balls after lunch, England held a lead of 75, but were soon in trouble at 48-3 in their second innings.
But they recovered magnificently to reach 172-3 at stumps.
With a number of deliveries now breaking through a wearing surface, India will not be heartened to hear the record successful run-chase in a Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium is 155.
And though the 1986 Indians famously tied a match here against Australia by making 347 in the final innings, Monty Panesar and Andrew Flintoff will surely pose more of a threat than Ray Bright and Greg Matthews did 22 years ago.
England's cricket at the start of the day lacked the intensity of the second evening, and for more than an hour India's batsmen Mahendra Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh did very nicely after resuming on 155-6.
TMS Close of Play - First Test, day three
Just 10 deliveries into the day, Dhoni smoothly guided Flintoff behind point for four and two overs later pulled him him for another boundary.
Thereafter, it was Harbhajan dominating the scoring - sweeping Panesar twice to the fence and hitting a couple of fours off Steve Harmison.
Dhoni looked solid, and though Harbhajan was playing more riskily he did not look particularly vulnerable and, with England looking a bit tired in the field, India were firmly back in the contest.
But it took just one delivery to change both teams' mindsets. Panesar drifted a ball onto Harbhajan's pads, the batsman edged into his pads, and Ian Bell took a good catch at short-leg.
The pair at put on 75, Harbhajan contributing 40, but next man Zaheer Khan should have departed for a golden duck - umpire Billy Bowden choosing to turn down an excellent Panesar lbw appeal.
Zaheer did not exactly cause England problems, however, as Flintoff began a new spell and soon had him beaten for pace, the lbw appeal this time upheld by the other umpire, Daryl Harper.
Then came the prized wicket of Dhoni (53), who lofted Panesar straight to Kevin Pietersen at long-off. England might have finished it then and there, but Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma added 22 handy runs and took the Indian innings just beyond the lunch break before Flintoff bowled Mishra.
England began their second innings with great comfort, India once again finding no swing with the new ball.
Sharma over-stepped seven times in six overs, but the delivery that began England's top-order slide was, by inches, legal.
It pitched just outside Alastair Cook's off-stump, held its line, and the batsman could have regarded himself as unfortunate to get a thin edge behind - it was the first delivery that had caused him any trouble.
Having made just 17 runs in the first innings, Ian Bell needed a score, but he propped forward to Mishra's top-spinner without sufficient care and short-leg took the catch.
India were cock-a-hoop when removing Kevin Pietersen cheaply
Yuvraj Singh, who had caused Pietersen problems in the one-day series was brought into the attack as Pietersen arrived at the crease.
And it was the left-arm spinner's lovely delivery, that pitched on middle-and-off and turned a fraction, that trapped the skipper for one.
While Strauss maintained his steady progress, he needed a partner to stick around. Collingwood started his job well, with a couple of confidence-boosting boundaries no doubt assisting his cause.
At tea, Strauss was on 30 and Collingwood 10 with the match delicately balanced with England on 68-3 and leading by 143.
Strauss coped particularly well with Harbhajan, taking an off-stump guard to deal with the deliveries bowled from round the wicket.
He generally played the bowler off the wicket, giving himself maximum time to deal with vagaries in bounce.
He swept Harbhajan for four, before raising his half-century with a square-cut off Mishra. As Dhoni, in desperation, tried the part-time spin of Sehwag, a long-hop was clouted to the boundary.
England's lead soon reached 200, and the partnership became 100 as India's problems mounted. When Collingwood dabbed Sehwag fine for four more, he reached his half-century and just 20 minutes remained in the day for India to take a consolatory wicket.
But the only chance India had to end the Strauss-Collingwood partnership came when Dhoni dropped a very tough chance off Mishra when Strauss had made just 15.
That would have made the score 43-4, and in hindsight could have been a game-changing moment.
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