BATTING hero Alastair Cook heaped praise on team-mate Ravi Bopara after the Essex pair put the West Indies to the sword at the Riverside.
Both men scored centuries but it was Bopara who stole the headlines after becoming only the fifth England batsman ever to score three successive Test tons.
The pair put on 213 for the second wicket before Bopara was finally beaten by a tremendous delivery from Lionel Baker for a stylish 108, consisting of 13 fours and a six.
But opener Cook, who remained unbeaten on 126 as England reached 302-2 at the close, was happy to let his county colleague hog the limelight after he joined greats such as Herbert Sutcliffe, Denis Compton, Geoffrey Boycott and his Essex coach Graham Gooch into the history books.
“I’m proud for Essex, everyone who put a lot of work in,” Cook said “We’ve all known how good Ravi is, I’ve never seen someone work as hard on his game – he’s brilliant and hopefully he can be a superstar for a long time.”
Bopara, meanwhile, hailed his mentor Gooch, and admitted he felt uncomfortable with his entry in the England hall of fame.
“Graham Gooch talks about making the most of it when you’re in good nick, I tried my best to do that,” Bopara said.
“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.”
Bopara came to the crease with the score on 69 after captain Andrew Strauss, who had earlier opted to bat on the seam-friendly wicket, was caught behind off the bowling of opposite number Chris Gayle for 26.
The Essex duo then proceeded to take the attack to the tourists with Cook playing a patient innings for a ninth Test century to end a barren run of 12 months and 27 innings without a three-figure score.
Bopara wasn’t far behind, completing his historical ton before being breached by Baker’s superb off-cutter.
Nightwatchman James Anderson survived a late barrage to extend the record of consecutive Test innings without a duck to 48, to leave England in complete control ahead of the second day.