BRIDGETOWN, February 28 – Ravi Bopara continued his rich vein of form since arriving in the Caribbean, when he collected his maiden Test hundred to help bat England to a formidable first innings total in the fourth Test against West Indies on Friday.
Bopara followed up his blistering hundred in a two-day, warm-up match last weekend with an equally purposeful 104 which allowed England to declare their first innings on 600 for six, 45 minutes after tea on the second day at Kensington Oval.
England then enhanced their position in the Test, when James Anderson claimed West Indies captain Chris Gayle for six before stumps were drawn as the home team reached 85 for one in reply.
Bopara arrived in the Caribbean last Saturday from the England Lions’ tour of New Zealand to cover for the injured Andrew Flintoff, who has flown home for treatment on his injured hip, and got into his stride with 124 against a side of young, inexperienced Barbadians.
On Friday, he shared successive hundred-run stands with Paul Collingwood and Tim Ambrose that propelled England to the declaration.
Collingwood scored 96 and Ambrose was unbeaten on 76 when England decided they had enough.
Fidel Edwards took three wickets for 151 runs from 30 overs and was the most successful West Indies bowler.
Anderson then trapped Gayle lbw for six playing back and across to a delivery that straightened on him in the fifth over of the West Indies reply.
England had to refer the decision to video umpire Daryl Harper to get the decision, after on-field umpire Russell Tiffin chose to give the West Indies captain the benefit of the doubt.
But England could not make another breakthrough before the close, as Ramnaresh Sarwan, not out on 40, and Devon Smith, unbeaten on 37, defied the visitors’ attack in an unbroken stand of 72 for the second wicket.
Earlier, Bopara and the rest of the England batsmen wore West Indies down with their dominant batting.
They all benefitted from West Indies’ indifference in the field, after England continued from their overnight total of 301 for three.
At lunch, England reached 405 for four with Collingwood and Bopara having started to drop anchor, after Kevin Pietersen was dismissed for 41 in the first half-hour.
Collingwood reached his 50 from 68 balls in the final over before lunch, when he struck Daren Powell into mid-wicket for three.
But he and Bopara were both fortunate to have survived until the interval.
Bopara, on four, was dropped at long-leg by Jerome Taylor off Edwards hooking, and Collingwood was dropped by short leg fielder Ryan Hinds on 44 off spinner Suleiman Benn.
Pietersen was out when Edwards trapped him lbw on the back-foot – a decision which the batsman challenged under the umpire review system and lost.
After lunch, Ambrose joined Bopara and they continued to plunder the runs, following the dismissal of Collingwood, as England reached 553 for five.
Collingwood was caught inside the deep backward point boundary off Edwards trying to reach his hundred in grand style. He added 149 at close to a run-a-minute for the fifth wicket with Bopara.
Ambrose was more fortunate, when ‘keeper Denesh Ramdin dropped him third ball before he had scored off Sulieman Benn.
After tea, Bopara continued untroubled to his landmark which came when he clipped a slower ball from Taylor to fine leg for a single.
But trying to accelerate, he was caught at deep fine leg hooking at short, rising ball from Edwards. He batted close to four hours, faced 143 balls, and struck nine fours and one six.
England trail in the five-Test series 1-0, following an innings and 23-run defeat in the opening Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica, the abandonment of the second Test at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua, and a draw in the third Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
The fifth and final Test of the series starts next Friday at Queen’s Park Oval in the Trinidad capital of Port of Spain.