Bopara Hits Maiden Century As England Put Pressure On WIndies

Ravi Bopara grabbed his unexpected opportunity with a thrilling maiden century while Paul Collingwood struck 96 here Friday as England piled up a mammoth 600 for six declared and put pressure on the West Indies on day two of the 4th Digicel Test at Kensington Oval.

Wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose also joined in the fun with an enterprising 76 not out.

The home team responded spiritedly to reach the close on 85 for one, still trailing by 515 and with a long road ahead over the next three days to save the test match.

The silky Ramnaresh Sarwan, already with two centuries in the series, was unbeaten on 40 while Devon Smith, aiming to shake off years of underachievement, was 37 not out.

England began the day well positioned on 301-3 after Andrew Strauss’ first day 142 and his opening partner Alastair Cook’s 94.

Fidel Edwards, the only West Indian bowler to pose much of a threat, gave the Caribbean team a quick boost when he removed England’s ace Kevin Pietersen in the day’s fifth over.

Pietersen, already dropped off Edwards in reaching his overnight 32, was trapped plumb leg before for 41 and the batsman’s TV referral was a desperate move that was rightly rejected by third umpire, Daryl Harper.

But the West Indies continued their butter-fingered display of the first day and again were made to pay.

Edwards, in a fiery spell, forced Bopara into an ill-controlled hook but Jerome Taylor spilled the skied chance at deep square leg. Bopara was then four and the total on 329 for four.

That let-off deflated the West Indies as Collingwood and Bopara shared an attractive stand of 149 for the fifth wicket either side of lunch.

Collingwood, who reached 3,000 runs when 19, played fluently and was in sight of his century when he slashed a drive at Edwards to deep backward point. The Durham batsman angrily trudged off after stroking 12 fours off 159 balls in three and three quarter hours.

Once again, when an opportunity arose to limit England, the West Indies failed to grasp it. Ambrose edged his third ball off Ryan Hinds’ left-arm spin, but wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin floored the chance.

Again, England quickly seized on that miss as Ambrose dominated a stand of 113 with Bopara, who sedately moved towards his century.

The 23-year-old Bopara reached the landmark after tea, off 140 balls, celebrating with a Usain Bolt style signal as he mixed up his Caribbean nations. Bopara perished soon after, Edwards deservingly claiming his third wicket as a skied hook was eventually hauled in by Taylor in the deep.

Bopara, who only arrived in Barbados last Saturday as a replacement for injured all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, stroked nine fours and a six off 143 balls in just short of four hours.

His battle against Edwards’ short-pitched barrage was one of the highlights of the day and he was left nursing a black eye after his innings, the legend of a blow to the helmet grille from one of Edwards’ thunderbolts.

Ambrose, taking advantage of Matt Prior’s optional paternity leave, cracked a boisterous unbeaten 76 that included eight fours and two sixes off 95 deliveries.

England skipper Strauss declared once his team notched 600, leaving the West Indies a tricky period at the end of the day.

His opposite number, Chris Gayle, was a James Anderson victim, leg before as he played across the line of a full delivery. Umpire Russell Tiffin had originally ruled Gayle not out but the decision was correctly overturned by TV umpire Harper.

That setback was overcome by Smith and Sarwan, who shared a counter-attacking stand of 72 that lifted the home team’s spirits heading into a crucial weekend of play.