Relaxed Strauss makes hay

India England

Watch Andrew Strauss talk to the media after scoring a century in day one of the First Test

Andrew Strauss felt the distractions surrounding the first Test in Chennai helped him to record an important century against India.

The build-up to the game has been dominated by talk of security after England decided to go ahead with the Test series following the recent terror attacks in Mumbai.

And Strauss, who struck 123 as England finished day one on 229 for five, said: “It was funny - I was probably as relaxed as I’ve felt going into a Test for a long time.

“Maybe all the stuff that’s been going on has taken our minds off the pressure of playing in Test cricket. I felt pretty comfortable from ball one.”

Strauss also admitted scoring reaching three figures was “special”, given the depth of feeling which has accompanied discussion of the Test series in the wake of the Mumbai atrocities.

Andrew Strauss

Andrew Strauss punishes a short delivery en route to a defiant century in Chennai

“This is an important Test match for the game of cricket,” he said. “It was very important we came out here and played and showed the game of cricket will continue so to get a hundred first up is very special.

“I don’t want to over-play my role in things but just the fact the game is taking place is fantastic and the game of cricket is better for it.”

England made a slow but solid start, reaching lunch on 63 without loss, before pushing on in the afternoon to up the rate for the loss of just Alastair Cook, who made 52.

But India fought back in the evening session as Strauss, who was caught and bowled by leg-spinner Amit Mishra, was the last of four wickets to fall.

“We could have done without me getting out at the end,” said Strauss. “I’m still seething about getting out because I felt pretty comfortable out there and I really wanted to go big,

“Five wickets is a pretty good effort by them on a flat wicket. We’ve got 220-odd on the board and hopefully we can push on towards 400 tomorrow which won’t be a bad effort.

“We didn’t have all the luck there either and we’d have liked to have been two wickets less than we are, but we still have some pretty good batters to come.

“Generally in India you’ve got to look to get around 400 first innings. We need to get up to 350 or 400 really and if we do that we’re in a good position in the game.”

Harbhajan Singh, who accounted for Cook and Paul Collingwood en route to figures of 2-67, predicted a testing time ahead for England’s seamers and spinners alike.

“We bowled really well and to restrict them to 229 for five was a really good effort,” he said.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook becomes the first of Harbhajan Singh's two victims, caught at mid-on for 52

“Their bowling line-up will have a tough time because it’s quite hot out there and they’re not used to these sort of conditions.”

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra landed a key blow shortly before the close by removing Strauss, underlining the growing belief that spin could play an influential role.

But Harbhajan insists India are more than capable of coping with the threat posed by slow left-armer Monty Panesar and debutant off-spinner Graeme Swann.

“We have very good batsmen who can bat against the top spinners,” he explained. “We’ve done well against Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan and everyone so Monty and the other spinners are not a threat to us.

“I’m not saying that Monty and the other spinners can’t get us out, but it will be hard work for them.

“I think Freddie (Andrew Flintoff) is the kind of bowler who can hit the deck really hard and he can get wickets on any kind of wicket because he has the quality in his bowling.”

Strauss and Cook played the spin of Harbhajan and Mishra particularly well after lunch, something Strauss feels could be crucial going forward.

“It’s important to be busy against the spinners here,” he said. “You can’t let them bowl over after over at you. I think that’s going to be the key to the rest of this game and beyond.”

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