FIRST TEST, Lord's (day one, close): England 289-7 v West Indies Match scorecard
Bopara's century was his second in successive innings against West Indies
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Lord's
Ravi Bopara's second successive Test century and first at the pivotal number three position took a misfiring England to 289-7 on day one of the first Test against West Indies.
Paceman Fidel Edwards produced a devastating post-lunch spell which reduced England from the security of 92-1 to a very worrying 109-4 - and he was the outstanding performer on the day with 4-53.
But the tourists let themselves down in the field, remarkably dropping six catches after tea, and thereby relinquishing the chance to bowl England out cheaply.
Bopara was dropped on 76 and 100 and was still there at stumps on 118, while Stuart Broad (38) was missed twice before reaching 14 - and again on 32 and 37.
But Bopara, also lucky to survive an lbw shout on 40, gave a crowd of around 15,500 reason to cheer on a wicket that appeared to assist all the bowlers rather more than the recent norm at Lord's.
England were put in by Windies skipper Chris Gayle, who was encouraged by the greenish tinge in the wicket. Evidence from the past six Tests in NW8 - all drawn with the wicket becoming flatter every day - may also have influenced him.
But Brendan Nash's bad drop of Bopara started a disease of butterfingers in the field which prevented the day from being an even better one for West Indies.
Until two late wickets set them back, it was almost a decent enough one for England, given the serious difficulties they faced soon after lunch.
Edwards was the bowler for the first three missed chances, before Sulieman Benn saw Broad missed by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. There was still time for Dwayne Smith to floor Bopara in the slips off Lionel Baker, and finally for Benn to fumble a chance offered by Broad off his own bowling.
Strauss, who revealed at the toss that England would also have elected to bowl first, opened the batting with Alastair Cook in the now firmly established left-handed pairing.
England's captain played with the freedom that had been the hallmark of his early days in Test cricket, back in 2004.
Such an approach - particularly when attacking deliveries outside off stump - had begun to cause him problems, so much so that he had re-invented himself as a far more cautious player.
West Indies celebrate after Fidel Edwards removes Kevin Pietersen
But here, he drove Jerome Taylor straight down the ground for four and then square cut him next ball for another boundary.
On 16, Strauss attempted to hit Taylor through the covers for a third boundary, but the ball was not quite short enough for the shot and he paid the price, edging behind to Ramdin.
Bopara came out for his first Test appearance at number three with the score 28-1 in the seventh over and nearly edged a good ball from Taylor straight away.
But he settled down quickly enough, putting away a leg-stump half-volley for four. The feet were on the whole moving well, particularly when a straight drive off Baker sped to the boundary, although possibly his best pre-lunch boundary came from the bowling of Benn.
The left-arm spinner is as tidy as they come, but Bopara was quick to spot a ball that was a fraction short and rocked back in his crease to cut him through point.
Bopara's partnership with Essex team-mate Alastair Cook was worth 60 at lunch in a total of 88-2, on what looked an easy-paced wicket.
England's plans were then shattered by a devastating burst from Edwards, who was still fresh after bowling just four overs with the new ball.
Switched by Gayle to the Nursery End, the Barbados quick had his line and length immediately under control.
Cook, who had got going in the morning with an excellent hook shot off Edwards, edged tentatively onto his stumps before Kevin Pietersen went immediately.
England's number four had the misfortune to face probably the best delivery of the day first up, and what a beauty it was - Edwards homing in on leg stump and getting the ball to cut away from Pietersen at pace.
In retrospect, the batsman probably did well to get bat to ball at all, and Ramdin - though he was wrong-footed - pulled off a blinding catch.
The importance of Bopara's continued presence became even starker when England lost another wicket to Edwards, Paul Collingwood edging another ball bowled in the ideal channel low to second slip.
However, Matt Prior showed more stickability - and as an added bonus was quick to get his account going, courtesy of three boundaries in a single Taylor over.
Bopara continued to keep the scoreboard ticking too. Having been on 33 at lunch, he had a major stroke of luck early in the middle session - Benn letting rip with a vociferous lbw appeal which was oddly declined by umpire Steve Davis.
Edwards could not hide his frustration as six catches were dropped
Replays showed the ball struck the batsman in line and would have hit middle stump, but the referral system trialled in the Caribbean is not available for this series.
An on-drive off Benn took Bopara to his 50, and his next boundary came with a delicate leg-glance off the same bowler.
He continued to play the slow bowler well as tea approached, cracking a delightful cover drive for four, though he was happy to let Prior do the bulk of the scoring.
England's wicketkeeper began the series with a Test average of 48, and combined some hearty thumps with delicate deflections, such as when Benn was swept fine for four.
Gayle's curious combinations led to the pre-tea bowling being conducted by Lendl Simmons' occasional swingers and his own serviceable off-breaks.
Already, seven bowlers had been utilised by the captain, but at tea England had recovered partially and were 182-4.
After hammering the second ball after the interval back past Edwards for four, Bopara used up a second life when flicking the bowler to square leg, where Nash failed to grasp an easy chance.
Less fortunate was Prior. Having reached 1,000 Test runs in his bright innings of 42 he connected slightly too early with his cut shot off Edwards and holed out to Simmons at extra cover.
Bopara content with Lord's ton
Broad strode to the wicket at 193-5 and was dropped on nine and 13 as the Windies catching continued to let England off the hook, exasperating Edwards who had to be content with four wickets rather than a potential six.
Benn dropped a chance to his right in the gully, and when Gayle could only parry a regulation offering at first slip, Smith at second slip just failed to grab the rebound.
Meanwhile, Bopara inched closer to his century, finally getting there with a quick single to mid-on, and celebrating without major histrionics - just a curious signal in which he appeared to request an entry on the famous Lord's honours board.
Dropped catches dominated the remainder of the day, although in between there were one or two elegant shots by both men.
Broad was finally caught by Taylor at backward point off Benn, who followed up by trapping debutant Tim Bresnan lbw, but in marginal light Bopara and Graeme Swann prevented any further damage.
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