Ravi Bopara, batting at No 3 for the first time for England and with the chance to make the position his own at the start of a busy summer of Ashes cricket, gave a pretty decent audition yesterday, making 118 unbeaten runs on day one of the first Test against the West Indies at Lord's.
His runs were especially welcome as he helped steer England out of the choppy waters of 109 for 4 shortly after lunch to the relative calm of 289 for 7 by the close. Only the opener Alastair Cook, who made 35, the wicketkeeper Matt Prior, 42, and opening bowler Stuart Broad, 38, offered support to Bopara as honours were shared after the West Indies had won the toss on an overcast day in north London.
While Bopara was almost singlehandedly keeping England in the hunt, Fidel Edwards was doing his bit for the West Indies taking 4 for 53 with his fast slingy bowling. In 22 balls he took 3 for 9 to knock over Cook, Kevin Pietersen (for a golden duck), and Paul Collingwood, the latter pair having only just returned from their Indian Premier League endeavours in South Africa. However, the West Indian efforts with the ball were horribly undermined by their fielding as they dropped six catches. Broad was the beneficiary an astonishing four times and Bopara rode his luck twice.
In between the spills, though, Bopara provided the sparse crowd with the thrills, driving through the covers and past the bowler with ease in the early stages of his innings. As he approached his hundred he became becalmed but upon reaching the milestone, the cheeky Essex all-rounder gestured to his team-mates to write his name on the Lord's honours board, the reserve of century-makers and bowlers who take five wickets in an innings at the home of cricket.
In his first Test he has achieved where such stellar names as Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Atherton and Shane Warne fell short.