England relish Chennai pressure

England 316 & 172-3 India 241
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The Independent Online

Paul Collingwood responded to another high-pressure situation by delivering a defiant half-century as England took a commanding position in the opening Test against India.

The Durham all-rounder has forged an international career on his ability to deliver in a time of crisis, not least last summer when he claimed a superb 135 against South Africa at Edgbaston to save his Test place.

But few of his innings could have been as valuable as the unbeaten 60 he recorded over three long hours at the crease to help England seize control of the Test on the third day at the Chepauk Stadium.

When Collingwood arrived at the crease England were tottering on 43 for three having lost three wickets in four overs to lead by just 118, but by the time stumps were drawn at the end of the third day his unbeaten partnership with Andrew Strauss was looking crucial.

Despite constant pressure from India's spinners and impressive seamers during 40.5 overs, the pair stood defiant at the close after a 129-run stand which guided England into a 247-run advantage on 172 for three.

"It's very satisfying to play those sort of innings - pressure innings are the ones that satisfy you the most," admitted Collingwood.

"As a player you realise the situations and realise when you've got to make a contribution and make it count and today was one of those situations.

"When you bat in India you've got to have a bit of luck getting yourself in. It only takes a little mistake against the spinners when you first come in and you can be out before you know it."

Collingwood looked unsteady at the start of his innings as India became excitable at every edge and mistimed shot and could have lost Strauss in the next over, but MS Dhoni was unable to take the catch standing up to the stumps following a low edge off leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

It was a costly error with Strauss, then on 15, going on to finish unbeaten on 73 and on course to become only the 10th England player in history to claim centuries in both innings of a Test and the first since Marcus Trescothick achieved the feat against West Indies at Edgbaston in 2004.

"We had lost three quick wickets and the game was on a bit of a knife-edge there so it was important that we made a partnership," he explained.

"We managed to get in, and you need a bit of luck to get in over here, and stayed in and built a partnership which is hopefully going to be a crucial one."

Their display was all the more remarkable considering the disruption to England's preparations for the series but Collingwood stressed: "We're professional cricketers and sometimes you have to play in adverse conditions.

"It's like anything, when you come out of one-day series or Twenty20 games and go straight into Test matches and you have to able to adjust your game. It's not a technique adjustment, it's a mental adjustment so we're doing it all the time."

England had begun the day hoping to end India's resistance quickly when they resumed 161 runs behind on 155 for six, but encountered resistance with Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh forging a 76-run partnership which threatened the tourists' hopes of a first innings lead.

Their stand was finally broken in the 16th over of the day with Harbhajan guiding left-arm spinner Monty Panesar to short leg as India's last four wickets fell in nine overs either side of lunch with Dhoni top-scoring with a determined 53.

Having established a 75-run first innings advantage, England suffered an untimely wobble as they lost Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and captain Kevin Pietersen in quick succession.

Cook fell edging behind to seamer Ishant Sharma and three overs later Bell's worrying run of form continued when he popped up a catch to short leg off leg-spinner Amit Mishra.

The pressure really began to build on England in the next over with Yuvraj Singh winning an lbw decision against Pietersen with his first delivery, prompting him to celebrate with even more gusto than normal following the previous day's war of words shortly before the close.

But with Collingwood and Strauss delivering defiant innings, it was Pietersen who wore the bigger smile when play finally ended with England pressing home their advantage.