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Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sehwag blitz sets up tense finale

First Test, Chennai (day four, stumps):
England 316 & 311-9d v India 241 & 131-1

By Oliver Brett

Virender Sehwag
Sehwag completely transformed the Test with a furious onslaught

India turned the tables on England in dramatic fashion through a blistering innings from Virender Sehwag late on day four of the first Test in Chennai.

Sehwag hit four sixes in his 83 off 68 balls as India finished the day on 131-1, needing a further 256 to win.

The hosts faced a massive target of 387 after England declared on 311-9.

Andrew Strauss hit his second hundred of the match and Paul Collingwood also made a century but England made only 57 runs between lunch and tea.

The highest score successfully chased to win a Test in India is 276, achieved by West Indies in Delhi in 1987. A year earlier, in Chennai, India tied a match against Australia when they were bowled out for 347, needing 348 to win.

However, the extraordinary striking of Sehwag in the final session on Sunday briefly thrust India into the position of clear favourites.

His first 50 runs occupied just 32 balls - putting it in the top-10 of fastest Test fifties - but he was finally pegged back later on before spinner Graeme Swann trapped him leg-before.


His fellow opener Gautam Gambhir, lucky to survive an appeal for a bat-pad catch off Swann on 21, was 41 at stumps with the out-of-form Rahul Dravid on two.

There was plenty happening for the bowlers on an ugly, worn wicket to give England encouragement that they can win the match. But India, with so much batting to come, also have a fine opportunity to go 1-0 up in this two-match series.

England had begun the day in a strong position - leading by 247 with seven wickets in hand. And as Strauss (73 not out overnight) and Collingwood (60) continued to nudge the bowlers around over after over, their dominance only increased despite a depressingly slow over-rate.

Boundaries remained rare, one of the best coming when Strauss moved to 91 with a back-foot force off Harbhajan that took England's total to 200.

Having shown such supreme concentration for so long, Strauss was on 96 when he almost gave it all away, top-edging a sweep off Amit Mishra just over Dravid at leg-slip.

CAG Russell 140 & 111 Eng v SA Durban 1923
H Sutcliffe 176 & 127 Eng v Aus Melbourne 1925
WR Hammond 119* & 177 Eng v Aus Adelaide 1929
H Sutcliffe 104 & 109* Eng v SA The Oval 1929
E Paynter 117 & 100 Eng v SA Johannesburg 1938
DCS Compton 147 & 103* Eng v Aus Adelaide 1947
GA Gooch 333 & 123 Eng v India Lord's 1990
AJ Stewart 118 & 143 Eng v WI Bridgetown 1994
MP Vaughan 103 & 101* Eng v WI Lord's 2004
ME Trescothick 105 & 107 Eng v WI Edgbaston 2004
AJ Strauss 123 & 108 Eng v Ind Chennai 2008
* denotes not out

But he finally got to the landmark, his 14th in Test cricket, half an hour before lunch when hitting Zaheer Khan into a space on the leg-side.

It had come off 213 balls with just seven fours, and he became the 10th Englishman, and first since Marcus Trescothick in 2004, to hit centuries in both innings in a Test.

Perhaps more significantly, he was first English batsman and only the seventh non-Asian to do it in the subcontinent, joining Everton Weekes, Bob Simpson, Allan Border, Gary Kirsten, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis.

At lunch, England had moved the scoreboard along to 244-3, holding a lead of 319.

Collingwood needed seven more runs after the interval for his century, and the single that got him there - tapping a shortish ball from Harbhajan for a single to fine leg - encapsulated the manner of his innings.

It had been a super effort from a batsman whose presence in the England side has been criticised.

The Strauss-Collingwood partnership finally realised 214 runs, the best for the fourth wicket by any team in Chennai and by any England team in India.

TMS Close of Play - First Test, day four

But the game entered a sterile period when England's batsman resisted the urge to attack.

The bowlers lost time in which they could have tested India's top order as Strauss and Collingwood each departed on 108, and Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann faced 32 balls for a combined 11 runs.

While the exhausted Strauss, who drove Harbhajan to cover, and Collingwood, lbw to a Zaheer Khan yorker, could be partially forgiven, it was hard to be as sympathetic to the batsmen below them in the order.

Neither Flintoff, who edged Ishant Sharma behind, nor Swann, who was bowled by Zaheer, were out attempting the big shots England's position demanded. And even when they were out, Kevin Pietersen still wanted more runs, although they were coming so slowly.

Steve Harmison was bowled on the stroke of tea, and after the interval Matt Prior, who hit 33 off 56 balls, speared a catch to cover.

Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood
Strauss and Collingwood both completed centuries on Sunday

Pietersen finally decided to call in the batsmen, and Sehwag took the declaration as his cue to set up an intriguing final day.

His early striking was impressive - and the crowd of 10,000 or so lapped it all up as a series of blows through the off-side off the pacemen was followed by a monstrous six in Monty Panesar's first over.

Alastair Cook put Sehwag down on 26, however, and he got another dose of luck on 65 when umpire Daryl Harper declined a decent lbw shout from Swann.

The off-spinner, bowling so much better than Harbhajan had, might also have seen Gambhir fall in his first over, when England appealed for a catch off bat and glove.

But Swann went on to take his third wicket in an impressive debut when a ball kept low out of the rough as it turned into Sehwag's pads. Harper took a few seconds to give the decision, but crucially for England he did.

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see also
TMS Close of Play - First Test, day four
14 Dec 08 |  Test Match Special
Jonathan Agnew column
14 Dec 08 |  England
Swann on song as England prosper
12 Dec 08 |  England
England falter after Strauss ton
11 Dec 08 |  England
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket

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