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May 7, 2009

Ravi Bopara hundred bolsters England

Ravi BoparaWest Indies captain Chris Gayle won the toss and elected to field in overcast conditions which looked as if they might assist his pacemen.

Ravi Bopara's second successive Test hundred was the centrepiece of England's 289/7 on the first day of their test series opener with the West Indies at Lord's here on Wednesday.

Bopara prohibited a complete collapse against Fidel Edwards, who took four wickets for 53 runs in 19 overs including the reward scalp of Kevin Pietersen for nought.

Bopara said he had not been edgy atall as he approached the century mark.

"I felt really relaxed, but I wanted to reach it off a single and not a boundary so I could run down the other end and really respire it in," said Bopara, whose century will have satisfied the selectors they made the right choice in picking him and not Ian Bell or former captain Michael Vaughan.

"It was a good day, to be honest I wasn't thinking too much about it this morning or in the days leading up to it. I was just hanging out with my friends."

Fast bowler Edwards might have had a few more had not Ravi Bopara been missed off a simple ability and Stuart Broad, dropped two catches off the Bajan's bowling, given four reprieves as the West Indies put down a potentially costly six catches after the tea interval.

Broad, was eventually out for 38 when he cut left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who'd dropped him off his own bowling, to Jerome Taylor at point after a stand of 69 with Bopara had taken England to 262 for six.

Benn then had Test debutant Tim Bresnan lbw for nine, with Graeme Swann seven not out at the close.

Both Bopara and Edwards had recently honed their games by playing in the Indian Premier League, a Twenty20 tournament featuring most of the world's leading players.

Bopara, whose temperament was a key factor in his promotion up the order from number six ahead of Bell and Vaughan, rarely looked flustered.

In his first Test at Lord's, Bopara went to a 207-ball century with a quick single off Lionel Baker.

England at tea were 182 for four after Edwards had dismissed Alastair Cook, Pietersen and Paul Collingwood.

Bopara should have been out five balls afterwards when he clipped Edwards straight to square leg only for Brendan Nash to drop the chance.

Edwards though did have his fourth wicket when Matt Prior, facing his first ball after tea, hit straight to cover on 42 where Lendl Simmons made no mistake to leave England on 193 for five and so end a partnership worth 84.

Edwards had now taken four wickets for 19 runs in six overs and then had Broad missed twice with West Indies Skipper Chris Gayle, who only arrived in England from IPL duty on Monday, dropping a comfortable first slip catch.

Edwards, 27, had earlier rocked England in the fourth over after lunch with two wickets in successive balls.

He first bowled Cook for 35 off the inside edge and next ball produced a 91mph beauty which squared up Pietersen and took the outside edge with wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin holding a fine one-handed catch as he dived low to his right.

England, who had been 88 for one at lunch, were now 92 for three with Edwards on a hat-trick at the start of his next over. Collingwood lived that but fell soon afterwards.

However, the cloud cover soon disappeared as England captain Andrew Strauss and fellow left-handed opener Cook an established in on a ground where the last six Tests have all ended in draws.

But Andrew Strauss, who made hundreds in three successive Tests against the West Indies during England's 1-0 series loss in the Caribbean this year, was trapped behind off Taylor.

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