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Page last updated at 17:54 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 18:54 UK

Cook & Bopara flay ragged Windies

Second Test (day one, close):
England 302-2 v West Indies
Venue: Riverside Stadium, Chester-le-Street Dates: 14-18 May
Start time: 1100 BST Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, Radio 4 LW, Red Button and online, with live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live on Sky Sports

By Jamie Lillywhite

Ravi Bopara
Bopara further consolidated the number three slot with a fine innings

Centuries from Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara took England to 302-2 after the opening day of the second Test against West Indies at the Riverside.

Andrew Strauss chose to bat and was caught behind off Chris Gayle for 26.

Cook played watchfully to record his ninth Test century, finishing unbeaten on 126 from 262 balls with 14 fours.

He shared 213 with Bopara, who moved into the 90s with a four, six and four and became only the fifth Englishman to make three successive Test hundreds.

Bopara, playing in his sixth Test, followed England greats Herbert Sutcliffe, Denis Compton, Geoffrey Boycott and Graham Gooch in achieving the feat.

The 24-year-old Essex batsman, who lists Gooch as one of his heroes, has had a remarkable Test career.

Having been dropped after making three ducks in Sri Lanka in 2007, he finally returned to the team with a century in the Caribbean last winter, only to be omitted to make way for an extra bowler, but then returned again with a century at number three at Lord's last week.

His century at the Riverside was a marvellous innings full of inventive strokeplay, and - following his stint in the Indian Premier League - proof that the Twenty20 format can have a positive influence on the five-day game.

Given the much-publicised quotes about his apparent apathy towards Test cricket it would be unfair to say Gayle quickly lost interest in this match, but once again the West Indies looked a very ordinary side, and their chances of levelling the series and retaining the Wisden Trophy look decidedly distant.

Both teams were unchanged, England keen to maintain a winning side, while for the tourists it was more a case of a lack of favourable alternatives than being content with their line-up.

Those used to gorging themselves on the frenetic fast food drive-thru style of Twenty20 would have struggled to enjoy the subtle nouvelle cuisine of attritional Test cricket in a quiet opening session.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss succumbed in disappointing fashion to opposite number Gayle

Though sunny, the bracing easterly wind made things difficult for a sparse crowd, most of whom were wrapped in a variety of winter garments.

England hoped for a batting paradise on a hard, straw-coloured surface following an unusually dry spell in the north-east, but there was an immediate lack of pace in the pitch, and several early deliveries dribbled through to the wicketkeeper.

There were only four boundaries in the first hour but the openers applied themselves admirably in textbook fashion, taking the shine off the new ball, although they were allowed to leave numerous balls wide of the off stump.

Strauss appeared to have got himself in and it was a surprise to all concerned when he departed 25 minutes before lunch.

He would not have been happy with his dismissal, not only because it was a tame legside sweep that brushed the glove, but also that the bowler was Gayle, with whom he has had a rather public war of words in the build-up to the match.

However, Cook, gritty rather than pretty, played an invaluable role and kept the scoreboard moving through a long section of slow bowling by frequently working the ball through the legside.

His Essex colleague was fluent from the outset with some sumptuous drives through the covers and down the ground, but he should have been dismissed on 51 when keeper Denesh Ramdin could not hold a leg glance diving to his left.


Innocuous occasional medium-pacer Lendl Simmons resumed the bowling after tea and a demoralised air in the field was perfectly demonstrated as the batsmen were able to take a series of singles off slow left-armer Sulieman Benn, Bopara's share of the 150 partnership exactly half.

Bopara's bold attack on Benn quickly led him to three figures and was met by great scenes of jubilation on the England balcony.

After a great deal of deliberation, Gayle handed the new ball to Fidel Edwards, but the first delivery with it was head high and flew between keeper and slip to the boundary.

Lionel Baker produced the one moment of excellence from the tourists with a superb off-cutter that breached Bopara's defences and knocked back off-stump, but the fact it did not come until four overs before the close underlined the state of play.

A strange finale ensued as James Anderson, once again sent out as nightwatchman, was subjected to a fearful spell of brutal pace at 90mph from Edwards.

It was a mystery why the fast bowler could not find such hostility earlier in the day, but Anderson was not perturbed and brought up the 300 with a thumping back-foot drive for four off Baker, extending the record of consecutive Test innings without a duck to 48.

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see also
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