England in command

Chennai, December 13:

Andrew Strauss was poised for a century in each innings as England took charge of the first Test against India here today.

The tourists, enjoying a first innings lead of 75, recovered from a shaky 43-3 to post 172-3 in their second knock by stumps on the third day, an overall lead of 247 runs with seven wickets in hand. Left-handed Strauss, who made 123 in the first innings, was unbeaten on 73 at close.

Paul Collingwood kept Strauss company at close on a polished 60, the pair having put on 129 for the unbroken fourth wicket after India, dismissed for 241, grabbed three quick wickets before tea.

Seamer Ishant Sharma had opener Alastair Cook (nine) caught behind, before Ian Bell and skipper Kevin Pietersen fell in successive overs. Amit Mishra used the bounce in the wicket to have Bell (seven) fending a catch to Gautam Gambhir at short-leg. Next over, Pietersen was trapped leg-before off the first delivery by Yuvraj Singh.

But Strauss and Collingwood ensured England begin the last two days well-placed to force victory in the first match of the two-Test series. The 31-year-old Strauss has so far struck five fours, while Collingwood has six fours to his credit.

Earlier, India’s seventh-wicket pair of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh put on 75 runs after India resumed at 155-6. Dhoni made 53 and Harbhajan contributed 40 before both fell to left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

Andrew Flintoff removed Zaheer Khan (one), but Mishra (12) and Sharma (eight) put on 22 valuable runs for the last wicket.

Panesar and Flintoff finished with three wickets each and debutant Graeme Swann took two, both in his first over in Test on Friday.