Andrew Strauss was poised for a century in each innings as England took charge of the first Test against India at the Chidambaram Stadium yesterday.
The tourists, enjoying a first innings lead of 75, recovered from a shaky 43-3 to post 172-3 in their second knock by stumps on the third day, an overall lead of 247 runs with seven wickets in hand.
Left-handed Strauss, who made 123 in the first innings, was unbeaten at the close on 73 and looking to become only the second Englishman after Graham Gooch to score two centuries in a Test against India.
Gooch made 333 and 123 against Mohammad Azharuddin’s men at Lord’s in 1990, a match England won by 247 runs.
Paul Collingwood kept Strauss company at close on a polished 60, the pair having put on 129 for the unbroken fourth wicket after India, dismissed for 241 soon after lunch, grabbed three quick wickets before tea.
Seamer Ishant Sharma had opener Alastair Cook caught behind for 9, before Ian Bell and skipper Kevin Pietersen fell in successive overs.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra used the bounce in the wicket to have Bell fending a catch to Gautam Gambhir at short-leg after the batsman had made 7.
Next over, Pietersen was trapped leg before wicket off the first delivery by part-timer Yuvraj Singh, who came on ahead of front-line spinner Harbhajan Singh.
But Strauss and Collingwood ensured England begin the last two days well-placed to force victory in the first match of the two-Test series.
The 31-year-old Strauss has so far batted for four hours, hitting five boundaries, while Collingwood has six fours to his credit.
Earlier, India’s seventh-wicket pair of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan put on 75 runs to prolong the first innings after India resumed at the overnight score of 155-6.
Dhoni made 53 and Harbhajan contributed 40, before both batsmen fell to left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.
Andrew Flintoff removed Zaheer Khan for 1, but Mishra (12) and Sharma (8) put on 22 valuable runs for the last wicket.
Dhoni, who resumed on his overnight score of 24, showed his aggressive intent from the start when he cut Flintoff to the point boundary in the second over of the morning.
The Indian captain moved to 38 when Bell failed to hold a difficult chance at short-leg off Panesar.
Harbhajan swept Panesar for a four to bring up the 50 partnership and then took two successive boundaries off Harmison to post India’s 200.
Harbhajan was caught at short-leg off Panesar, while Dhoni holed out in the deep off the same bowler soon after.
Panesar and Flintoff finished with three wickets each and debutant Graeme Swann took two, both in his first over in Test cricket.