Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Essex boys passed the Test

England's future paid due respect to England's past last night 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."

West Indies coach John Dyson admitted it had been a difficult start for the visitors at Chester-le-Street.

Dyson had to contend with captain Chris Gayle's controversial pre-match comments about the future of Test cricket before watching his men toil in the field after losing a crucial toss.

"It was a tough day," the Australian said.

"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.”

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