England opener Andrew Strauss hit 123 in the first Test yesterday as cricket returned to center stage in India after the Mumbai terror attacks.
The left-hander’s 13th century after a first-wicket stand of 118 with Alastair Cook (52) lifted England to 229-5 by stumps on the opening day at the heavily guarded Chidambaram Stadium.
Andrew Flintoff was unbeaten on 18 and night-watchman James Anderson was on 2.
India fought back in the final session with four wickets to end the day with honors even on a barren wicket that is expected to turn later in the match.
The stadium wore a deserted look as less than 1,000 fans watched the Test start just a fortnight after the Mumbai attacks that left more than 170 dead and injured more than 300.
England, who abandoned the one-day series and flew home after the attacks, agreed to return for the two-Test series after security checks and a shift in venues.
Kevin Pietersen’s men joined the Indian players in wearing black armbands after observing a minute’s silence for the victims before play began.
The crowd, which swelled to around 5,000 by afternoon, included International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat and top officials of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The left-handed pair of Strauss and Cook batted through the first three hours to give England a solid start after Pietersen won the toss and elected to take first strike.
Cook fell soon after reaching his 15th half-century when he miscued a pull off Harbhajan Singh high to mid-on where Zaheer Khan took a well-judged catch.
England, at a commanding 164-1 at tea, slumped to 221-5 soon after the break following a double strike by Zaheer.
The left-arm seamer trapped Ian Bell leg before wicket for 17 with the second delivery after tea and then took a return catch as Pietersen (4) top-edged a hook high into the air.
India earned a lucky break soon after when Paul Collingwood (9) was declared caught at short-leg off Harbhajan by umpire Billy Bowden. Television replays showed the ball go off the pad.
Strauss finally fell after a dour six-hour vigil at the crease when he was beaten in the air by leg-spinner Amit Mishra and spooned a low return catch to the bowler.
The match, described as an emotional moment by both captains on Wednesday, began sedately as Strauss and Cook plodded to just 29 runs from 14 overs in the first hour of play.
England awarded a Test cap to off-spinner Graeme Swann as the second slow bowler in the side alongside Monty Panesar, while Matt Prior took over as wicketkeeper from Tim Ambrose.
India made two changes from the side that won the final Test against Australia at Nagpur early last month that sealed a 2-0 series victory.
Opener Gautam Gambhir, who missed the Test because of a one-match ban on disciplinary grounds, returned in place of Murali Vijay. Left-handed Yuvraj replaced retired former captain Sourav Ganguly in the middle-order.