Strauss carries England's baton
A century of fluctuating tempo from Andrew Strauss kept England afloat on the first day of the opening Test in Chennai.
Strauss made light of a perceived lack of preparation for England ahead of the two-Test series, facing 191 balls for his 13th Test hundred, and second against India.
He eventually departed for 123, caught and bowled by Amit Mishra, having faced 233 balls and batted for six hours.
The Middlesex left-hander had guided England to a dominant position of 164 for one at tea, but Zaheer Khan, who ended the day with figures of 2-36, inspired an India comeback as four wickets fell in the evening session, including the prize scalp of Kevin Pietersen.
England closed at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on 229 for five, with Andrew Flintoff 18 not out and nightwatchman James Anderson unbeaten on two.
Pietersen won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat. Both teams wore black armbands and observed a poignant minute’s silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Mumbai atrocities last month.
After a slow start, Strauss and Alastair Cook rattled along to a century opening partnership.
Both were fortunate to survive rash hook shots against short balls in Zaheer’s fourth over, before Strauss flicked off his legs for the first boundary.
Harbhajan Singh was introduced as early as the ninth over, but Cook greeted the off-spinner by driving him handsomely through the covers for four.
Strauss took the attack to Harbhajan and an out-of-sorts Mishra, sweeping the two spinners from well outside off stump and punishing anything short.
Mishra almost made amends just prior to lunch, but Cook’s ugly attempted sweep somehow evaded Rahul Dravid at gully.
When play resumed, Mishra dropped too short, allowing Strauss to employ his favoured cut shot for successive fours.
Strauss reached his half-century in the 34th over, while Cook joined him at the milestone three overs later with an emphatic aerial stroke off Mishra.
Cook finally lost his patience with the partnership standing at 118. He tried to slog Harbhajan to leg, but top-edged to provide Zaheer with an easy catch at mid-on to depart for 52.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni waited until the penultimate over before tea before turning to his back-up spinners, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh.
Strauss responded by paddling Sehwag for successive fours, leaving him seven short of his hundred at the break.
Ian Bell lasted only one ball after the resumption, leg before to a Zaheer delivery that came back into him.
Pietersen could have gone the same way when Yuvraj crept a delivery past his bat, but umpire Daryl Harper denied the appeal for lbw.
Strauss continued unabated, cutting emphatically to go to 97, before surviving a fierce inswinging yorker from Zaheer on 99 and guiding the left-armer for four through third man to bring up his ton.
The stage looked set for a big partnership, but Pietersen frittered away the opportunity when he tried to hook a short ball from Zaheer.
The bowler could barely conceal his delight when the England captain sliced it up in the air and offered a simple return catch.
Paul Collingwood edged the next ball through the slip cordon, and survived two vociferous Yuvraj appeals for lbw before being adjudged, harshly, caught at bat-pad off Harbhajan for nine.
Strauss went into his shell as the final passage loomed. With six overs left, he swept Mishra for four, but the leg-spinner gained revenge with his next delivery when Strauss, aiming to leg, provided him with a diving return catch.