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May 6, 2009
Decision of the day
Twenty-two centuries have been scored in the six consecutive drawn Tests at Lord's since 2006 - a tally that suggests that winning the toss and batting is the only route to take. Chris Gayle, however, had other ideas. Perhaps he was seduced by the tinge of green in the track, perhaps he felt an extra day's acclimatisation might be in order after his late arrival from South Africa. Or perhaps he simply fancied continuing the pattern that served his team so well in the Caribbean, by letting England bat first and take time out of the game on a flat and featureless wicket. That looked like the policy during an inauspicious first session, but by tea, a fourth possibility had galloped into view. Perhaps he was going for the win after all.
Spell of the day
One of the many features of England's winter in the Caribbean was the appalling bad luck suffered by Fidel Edwards, the quickest and most hostile bowler on either side. In all he managed nine wickets at 54.88, stats that did no justice whatsoever to the threat he posed on some of the most lifeless wickets imaginable. Today, he resumed much where he had left off. His opening spell touched 92mph but barely reached the keeper at shin height, while three dropped catches in the final session were further unwarranted injustices. Thankfully for his peace of mind, he got his rewards in the first hour after lunch by pitching it up and letting it swing, and produced a magnificent and momentum-grabbing spell of 6-2-15-3.
Catch of the day
Two of those Edwards wickets came from consecutive deliveries, but there's no question which was the pick. First he squeezed through Alastair Cook's defences via an inside-edge, and then followed up with the best ball of the day - a full-length, late-zipping outswinger to the "under-prepared" Kevin Pietersen. It zipped so late, in fact, that the keeper Denesh Ramdin was already heading down the leg-side when Pietersen's flustered edge flew away to his right. With impressive poise, he changed direction in a split-second, stuck out his mitt, and seized the catch that transformed West Indies' prospects.
Innings of the day
Ravi Bopara was chosen at No. 3 for a variety of reasons - the shortcomings of his competitors, the backing of his coach and former Essex team-mate Andy Flower, and the poise of his maiden Test century in Barbados among them. But above all, he was chosen for the strength of his character. In the words of his captain, Andrew Strauss, he is someone "who when the going gets tough will come out and perform", and that is exactly what was required as England somehow squandered their morning dominance to slump to 109 for 4. Right at the start of his innings, he had been greeted with a superb late outswinger that beat him all ends up, but he wasn't remotely fazed, and knuckled down to produce an adhesive and unbeaten 118 that may yet make the difference in the final analysis of this contest.
Indifference of the day
Those vital five minutes before the end of any given session are often the most crucial for a bowling side - a chance to turn the screw with the batsman tensing up and contemplating survival through to the break. Gayle, as is his wont, never allows himself to be fussed by such opportunities. With England one-down as the morning session drew to a close, he might have wanted to pile the pressure onto Bopara and Cook. Instead he flicked the autopilot switch, and sauntered off the field for an early lunch.
Let-off of the day
Luck plays a major factor in even the best Test innings, and Bopara's was no exception. On 40, he propped forward to Sulieman Benn and was struck so flush on the knee roll there might have been a chain and cistern attached. Umpire Steve Davis was unmoved, however, and while Benn fumed, England's mainstay was given an opportunity to bed down while the post-lunch collapse continued around him.
Drop of the day No. 1
Brendan Nash is a tidy allround cricketer - tidy enough, in fact, to open the bowling straight after lunch. But it was his aberration straight after tea that proved his most notable contribution to the day. With Bopara still finding his feet after the break, he clipped the fifth ball of the session, from Edwards, firmly to square leg, but the regulation opportunity went straight into Nash's midriff and out again. And on 100, he offered another simple chance to Devon Smith at second slip, but this was Bopara's day, not West Indies'.
Drop of the day No. 2
If Sulieman Benn's slip-up in the gully was forgivable - it went high and hard as Stuart Broad flashed hard outside off - Gayle's subsequent lapse at slip was less so. Doubtless it'll be suggested he was catching up on his sleep as the chance came to him at waist height, but Devon Smith at second slip was hardly less culpable as he dived across to take a looping rebound, and muffed the second attempt as well.
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