Strauss and Swann on song as India fluff their lines
Madras, first Test, third day: England 172/3 (Strauss 73*, Collingwood 60*) and 316 lead India 241 (Dhoni 53;
Flintoff 3-49, Panesar 3-65) by 247 runs
ANDREW STRAUSS and Paul Collingwood shared an unbroken 129-run stand to consolidate England's advantage as they looked to set up a rare Test win in India.
Strauss struck an unbeaten 73 to go alongside his first innings century while Collingwood shrugged off the disappointment of a Billy Bowden shocker first time out to hit a well-deserved half-centruy after Alistair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen all fell cheaply.
Earlier England's bowlers made short work of the India tail, Andrew Flintoff and Monty Panesar picking up three wickets apiece, their recently scalped skipper MS Dhoni the only batsman to trouble England with a quick-fire fifty.
Though for all the action on the pitch, the real drama, at least to those of us listening in 5,000 miles away, was to be found elsewhere - and I'm not talking terrorism.
What keeps us going through the cold and lonely nights, what keeps us in a state of semi-consciousness huddled in our beds, trying to keep warm, and trying not to sleep, is Test Match Special.
The stats, the stories, the banter, the jokes, the wind-ups, the interviews and above all else the commentary itself. All in all a much better proposition than the Sky output, improved though it is from the early days of over-hyping the patently underperforming England of the 1990s.
Those were truly the dark days for English cricket, the days of 3-0 series defeats to Zimbabwe and 3-0 Test whitewashes in India when they were led by Michael Atherton and David Lloyd, both now of the Sky commentary team - the latter akin to a medieval jester, a bumbling, couthless oaf happy to play the clown.
But I digress; back to TMS, and here's just a handful of anecdotes from the first three days of the first Test which have kept me warmed-up in bed, awake on the bus and sane at work...
An Indian, whose name is Danny Lal, who Vic Marks informs us keeps three pictures in his wallet: one of his wife, one of his little daughter, and one of VVS Laxman! I kid you not!!!
Back in the day, in the seventies and eighties, Marks and Sunny Gavaskar would wile away the hours in the slip cordon at Taunton dreaming up fantasy XIs alongside Peter Roebuck and the Somerset glory boys Ian Botham and Viv Richards, with topics ranging from the best bearded XI to the best-looking XI, to name but two.
A listener emails in swearing he'd been served by Monty Panesar at a pharmacy in East London! A tale which opens the door to the old Fighting Talk question on "sportsmen as shop assistants", the winner of which is almost always going to be Wayne Rooney as a butcher's assistant.
TMS golden girl Alison Mitchell getting stuck in the toilet at the MA Chidambaram, rescued by the polished boot of a policeman kicking in the door. Poor Ali. I can think of few worse places in the world to be locked in.
Bill Frindall informing us all that Graeme Swann was not the first bowler to take two wickets in his maiden over in Test cricket, Bearders forcing Cricinfo into an about turn. The man who did it first? Richard Johnson, for Engalnd against Zimbabwe at Chester-le-Street in 2003.
And, if you eschew the crispness of digital radio and listen in on long wave, not just TMS, but the range of other Radio 4 shows which book-end and intersperse the cricket that make for great listening, from Yesterday in Parliament and From our own Correspondent to the often irritating, seldom sensical and always entertaining Shipping Forecast.
I could go on, but there's the Strictly results show to catch...
From the cricket fields of India to the dancefloors on England, the BBC does it like no other; makes you feel proud to pay the licence fee - it's worth every single penny.
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