Bopara stakes his claim in some style

ESSEX all-rounder Ravi Bopara marked his first Test appearance in England with a sublime century last week, writes MIKE SIMMONDS. Bopara, promoted to the troublesome number three spot in place of Owais Shah, made 143 against the West Indies as England can

ESSEX all-rounder Ravi Bopara marked his first Test appearance in England with a sublime century last week, writes MIKE SIMMONDS.

Bopara, promoted to the troublesome number three spot in place of Owais Shah, made 143 against the West Indies as England cantered to a 10-wicket success.

The Forest Gate-born batsman took his chance with both hands and said afterwards that he hadn't placed any undue pressure on himself.

"I just went out and tried to do my best," said the former Brampton Manor pupil.


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"I'm playing for England and whether I open the batting or bat three, four, five or six, I just do my best for the team."

Bopara did enjoy a certain element of luck on his way to three figures, as he was dropped by Brendan Nash on 76, while he was also put down immediately after reaching his second Test century.

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Despite those blemishes, he held the innings together, allowing England to post a first innings score of 377.

"The luck was definitely with me towards the latter part of my innings - when I was dropped on 100 I actually thought I was gone, so it was nice to see it go down," said the 24-year-old.

"It was one of those pitches on which you're never quite in and it was swinging all day, so you coudn't get too expansive."

With the Ashes starting in just under two months, then that hundred will have done Bopara's chances of making the first match at Sophia Gardens no harm at all.

He has come a long way since making his first class debut with Essex back in 2002 and believes that the added pressure of coming in first wicket down, will only enhance his game.

"I remember starting out as a youngster with Essex, I had no responsibility, I actually felt like a youngster in the team and I never used to get any runs," said Bopara.

"I'd get pretty little 20s, 30s or 40s and then get out, but when I feel like there's responsibility on me I feel that brings the best out of me.

"Things are going well at the moment. Graham Gooch always told me that when things are going well make sure you make it last a long time because every player goes through that dip.

"I'm sure I will go through that at some stage in my career, but the way things are going at the moment, I'm trying to make it last as long as possible."

With former Essex batsman Andy Flower now at the helm for England, then Bopara has every chance of cementing his place for his country.

The new coach was definitely impressed with the way he went about his hundred.

"I like his attitude," said Flower.

"There's a confidence about him, but not an arrogance.

"He gets the blend right and is a popular member of the changing room because of it.

"I rate him very highly, but only he will determine how well his career goes.

"This is just a start for him. I wouldn't say he surpassed my expectations.

"He handled himself very well and handled the transition from Twenty20 cricket to Test cricket very well.

"He left the ball beautifully outside off stump and moved his feet beautifully forward and back.

"It was a lovely innings to watch.

"In the way that you watch an artist, he painted a lovely picture."

The decision to pick Bopara at number three was a bold one by Flower, especially with Ian Bell and Michael Vaughan pushing for recalls.

But according to Essex batting coach and England legend, Graham Gooch, it was the right thing to do.

"I told Geoff Miller that if he is handled right, Ravi could be a serious threat to other teams," said Gooch.

"Along with Kevin Pietersen, he is England's most gifted player.

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