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Sat 13 Dec 2008 10:53 PM

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England batsman Strauss turns the screw on India

England are 247 runs ahead with seven wickets in hand with two days play remaining.

Andrew Strauss was poised for a century in each innings as England took charge of the first cricket Test against India at the Chidambaram stadium here on Saturday.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 and looking to become only the second Englishman after Graham Gooch to score two centuries in a Test against India.

Gooch made 333 and 123 against Mohammad Azharuddin's men at Lord's in 1990, a match England won by 247 runs.

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 soon after lunch, grabbed three quick wickets before tea.

"It was a pressure innings and when you get in, you have to make it count," Collingwood said of his effort.

"The wicket has started to crumble a bit, but it will be good to get another 100 or 150 runs more.

"In India, the fourth and fifth days count the most because of the reverse swing the wicket is able to generate."

Collingwood heaped praise on Strauss, saying the Middlesex opener had "set an example for the rest of us."

"He is playing the ball very late," he said of Strauss. "It is reverse swinging, so you have to do that.

"He looks relaxed at the crease and is looking pretty good. You can take a lesson from the way he played in the first innings."

India's South African coach Gary Kirsten praised England, but said the home team had not given up hope yet.

"There is still a long way to go in the match and anything can happen," said Kirsten.

"England have played very well to get into the position they are in, they have played some very good cricket in this match.

"We have done everything we set out to do in our bowling, but we did not bat well enough in the first innings.

"But I am not worried because this Indian team is capable of doing anything. It has players who have the special ability to come up with special stuff."

When England batted a second time, seamer Ishant Sharma had opener Alastair Cook caught behind for nine, before Ian Bell and skipper Kevin Pietersen fell in successive overs.

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra used the bounce in the wicket to have Bell fending a catch to Gautam Gambhir at short-leg after the batsman had made seven.

Next over, Pietersen was trapped leg-before off the first delivery by part-timer Yuvraj Singh, who came on ahead of frontline spinner Harbhajan Singh.

But Strauss and Collingwood ensured England will 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 batted for four hours, hitting five boundaries, while Collingwood has six fours to his credit.

Earlier, India's seventh-wicket pair of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan put on 75 runs to prolong the first innings after India resumed at the overnight score of 155-6.

Dhoni made 53 and Harbhajan contributed 40 before both batsmen fell to left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

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

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