England stars hail Gooch influence
England’s future paid due respect to England’s past as Ravi Bopara and Alastair Cook hailed Graham Gooch for his part in their Test match development.
The Essex pair each scored centuries as England put on 302 for two on day one of the second Test against the West Indies at the Riverside, sharing a 213-run stand for the second wicket.
Cook batted through for 126 not out, while Bopara fell late on for 108 after becoming only the fifth Englishman to score hundreds in three consecutive Test knocks.
The fourth man to do so was Essex legend Gooch, a man both batsmen credit as a major influence.
“I felt in good form as soon as I went out there and Graham Gooch talks about making the most of it when you’re in good nick. I tried my best to do that,” said Bopara, who arrived at the crease following Andrew Strauss’ dismissal for 26.
“But I wouldn’t put myself in the same sentence as Graham. I have a lot of respect for that man, he scored a lot of runs for England and he was a fantastic player so I wouldn’t mention myself alongside him.
“It’s hard for me to talk about cricket and Graham Gooch because I have so much respect for him and what he did for England.”
Bopara also revealed Gooch had visited him before play started to offer some last minute tips.
"He popped into the nets (this morning) to have a word and watched me for a bit,” said the 24-year-old.
“He said ‘keep playing straight’, he’s always said that to me. He says there’s no better place to hit the ball because there are no fielders there.
“He keeps reminding me to keep the bat straight, it might sound basic but it’s nice to have that from Graham, it’s quite reassuring.”
Cook, who has batted with Bopara through the age groups, echoed his team-mate’s praise of the former England skipper after reaching a ninth Test hundred.
“Graham has told me the same things because I quite like a whip from the off side to leg too,” said the left-hander.
“Goochie has been amazing for me and for Ravi. When I was 18 he’d be there at 8.30am in the morning throwing down at me for an hour. And not just me, all of the Essex lads. Putting that work in with the record he has behind him is amazing.”
Reflecting on the huge stand, Cook added: “It’s just been a great day to bat with Ravi. We played Under-14 cricket together so to be playing Test matches now and scoring hundreds together put a smile on my face.”
Bopara’s streak is in stark contrast to his experiences after making his Test debut in 2007, which included three straight ducks and a subsequent spell in the international wilderness.
“Sri Lanka was one of the worst times of my cricket career,” he said at the close. “I went with high hopes and reckon I came back better, tougher. It made me work harder and hopefully it’s showing now.”
Bopara’s knock was relatively fluent compared to Cook’s, and the opener admitted afterwards that he is finding life in the middle tough at present.
“It’s been a battle for the last 12 months and it’s just nice to score some runs,” Cook added.
"I never make it look easy. It’s frustrating with Ravi at the other end who does make it look so easy.
"But it’s about how many you get and not how you get them.”
The Riverside pitch looked slow and lifeless for much of the first day, but Cook believes it will offer more for the bowlers as the match progresses.
“I think we’ve definitely had the best of it,” he said after captain Andrew Strauss apparently called it right after winning this morning’s toss. “I can only see it going one way now.”
West Indies coach John Dyson admitted it had been a difficult start for the visitors at Chester-le-Street after watching his side toil in the field.
“It was a tough day,” the Australian told Sky Sports 1. “It was a very flat wicket and the batsmen batted very well.
"Our bowlers stuck at the task reasonably well. We’ve just got to keep going and trying to bowl in the right areas.
“It was a terrific ball Lionel Baker bowled Ravi so maybe we can get one or two of those in the morning.”