Strauss hundred fails to overshadow weak middle order

Just to get things started – let’s talk about the positives of England’s performance on the opening day of the first test against India in Chennai. The tourists finished on 229-5 after an entertaining day’s cricket, but it could have been so much better.

After a bold move from Kevin Pietersen to bat first after winning the toss, the pressure was on Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss to get England off to a good start. This is exactly what they did as the pair put on 118 for the first wicket. The cricket odds were backing a big score at this stage.

This effort in the first session of the test match was even more remarkable considering the bizarre circumstances in which the game was being played. Spectators were heavily outnumbered by army commandos and policeman as security was heightened around the ground.

Nevertheless, Strauss and Cook looked in decent form after lunch as the boundaries were being hit with more regularity. However, the latter fell shortly after reaching his 50 when he ballooned a ball from Harbajhan Singh into the hands of Zaheer Khan.

Strauss continued to impress though and made his way into the 90’s when tea came with England on 164-1. It was a solid start for Pietersen’s men and it was crucial that they built on it in the final session.

However, only two balls after the interval, Ian Bell was caught LBW by Zaheer to start a session that was to belong to the hosts. Strauss wasn’t fazed though and reached his century shortly afterwards. It was a remarkable effort for someone who had enjoyed such little preparation before the game.

Two more wickets were to give India the momentum as Kevin Pietersen – who looked extremely out of sorts – and Paul Collingwood fell in quick succession. The Durham man was very unlucky though as the ball was no where near his bat before Gambhir took the catch.

Strauss then fell to Mishra late on as Andrew Flintoff and night-watchman James Anderson led England off with the score on 229-5. A very disappointing evening session had completely undone what was an encouraging start to the series.

The thing I wanted to touch on briefly though was the frailty of England’s middle-order. Paul Collingwood is lucky to be included after a poor run of form, Andrew Flintoff by his own admission prefers to bat at seven and Matt Prior is yet to convince as a test match batsman. Overall, it seems rather frail.

India will know that two early wickets could land England in trouble. With Anderson, Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar in the side – the tail is rather long as well.

Ever since the team was selected I have asked myself – why no Owais Shah? The man is pure class. During the recent ODI series against India, he was England’s best player and looked to cope against India admirably. How is Collingwood preferred to him?

Of course I hope that England’s batsman prove me wrong and reach at least 400 in their first innings, but I really do feel that Shah has been unfortunate to miss out. The way the team collapsed on the first day exaggerated this.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

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