Bopara to the power of three
Ravi Bopara became only the fifth England batsman to score three successive Test centuries, helping England dominate the first day of the second npower Test against West Indies at Chester-le-Street.
With a fluent 108, England’s new number three joins Herbert Sutcliffe, Denis Compton, Geoffrey Boycott and Graham Gooch in achieving the accolade, having made 104 at the Kensington Oval and 143 at Lord’s in his last two Test innings.
Bopara faced 208 balls in a partnership of 213 runs with Alastair Cook, an all-wicket Test record at the Riverside, as England racked up a formidable total of 302 for two by stumps.
Bopara eventually fell to the fourth over of the second new ball, bowled through the gate by a Lionel Baker inswinger, but Cook remained in situ on 126. Nightwatchman James Anderson will resume with him tomorrow on four.
The Essex pair of Bopara and Cook took full advantage of a disappointingly moribund Durham pitch, against generally disciplined but toothless West Indies bowling.
In contrast to Bopara, Cook had gone 27 innings without a hundred prior to England’s recent tour of the Caribbean. But he was happy to accumulate runs with glances and drives in his own inimitable way, barely giving a chance in his ninth Test century.
Tomorrow, Cook has an ideal opportunity to rectify a common criticism, that he fails to stick around for a big hundred.
Andrew Strauss won the toss on a chilly morning and elected to bat first, with both teams unchanged from the first Test at Lord's.
West Indies’ pacemen persevered with a line wide of off stump for the first few overs, until Strauss forced them to bowl straighter with a couple of square drives for four.
Cook hooked confidently off Fidel Edwards and Baker, but lost his partner to the second over of spin with the score at 69.
Trying to sweep Chris Gayle, Strauss was strangled down leg side by wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, who juggled before holding on.
Just after lunch, Cook brought up his 20th Test half-century, from 108 balls, against Gayle and Sulieman Benn's unthreatening spin.
Bopara moved without alarm into the thirties, but was fortunate to survive a lazy clip just short of Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid wicket.
The right-hander reached his half-century with his seventh four, a tickle through fine leg. It was evident from Bopara’s unusually reserved body language on reaching the landmark that he regarded it as merely the hors d’oeuvres.
That said, Bopara was given a real let-off on 51, when he leg-glanced Baker behind, where Ramdin could only get a fingertip to a decent chance.
Cook began to expand his range approaching tea, coming down the track to play a full-blooded pull-drive through mid wicket off Benn.
And little changed in the evening, as the batsmen continued to pick off the odd loose ball.
In an isolated moment of alarm, medium-pacer Lendl Simmons produced an inswinging yorker which caused Bopara to overbalance, but the batsman dug it out by flicking through mid wicket for four.
Cook endured a nervy couple of balls on 99, but went to three figures with another controlled haul to leg. His century came from 209 balls.
There were few such nerves for Bopara, eager to bring up his hundred before the second new ball. He greeted Benn with a sequence of four-six-four in the 77th over to move into the nineties, and picked off Simmons’ awfully wide full toss for his ton.
Baker made good use of the new cherry by beating Bopara, pushing forward, prompting the use of a nightwatchman.
Edwards had struck Anderson on the helmet at Lord’s, and the tiny Bajan bounded in with a succession of short balls against the tail-ender.
In a near miss, Anderson gloved an Edwards bouncer inches short of Ramdin. But the nightwatchman demonstrated his burgeoning batting ability by carving Baker for a glorious back-foot cut, the last action of note before the close.