Why England’s Selectors Would Be Wrong to Write off Ravi Bopara


Brighter Times for Bopara

The rise of England’s cricket team over the past 18 months has seen its fair share of winners and losers. For every Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn who has thrived, there has been a Joe Denly, Owais Shah and Ryan Sidebottom who has been cast aside.

Yet has there been a bigger loser in this turn of events than Ravi Bopara?

Cast your mind back twelve months and Bopara was busy racking up his third test hundred and becoming only the fifth Englishman to rack up three consecutive Test Match centuries.

He had enjoyed a decent (at least by the standards England set) World T20 tournament and caused a fair stir in the IPL for the Kings XI Punjab.

His form appeared to have ensured that England had found another batsman capable of performing well in all-forms of the game, and also found that long awaited answer to the troublesome number 3 position.

Ashes struggles cast Bopara out of England reckoning

Yet the rest-as we now know is history. It’d be interesting to know-and unsurprisingly he has not divulged to great length his thoughts on the matter-what Bopara makes of his Ashes campaign. His situation is probably comparable to those that Ian Bell experienced during the 2005 Ashes.

Unlike his previous struggles in Sri Lanka, where Bopara simply was dismantled by the Sri Lankan bowlers, here it was more of a working over in a pressure cooker environment which got too much for the Essex man.

In the end his failures brought Jonathan Trott into the fold, and England ended up winning the Ashes while Bopara was left to stew in County Cricket while his former team-mates celebrated victory at the Oval.

Since then, Bopara has found the way back into the England team a hard one.

He was omitted from the squads for the tours of South Africa and Bangladesh, was accused of ball tampering by Dermot Reeve while away in New Zealand, was reduced to a role largely as a spectator during England’s T20 success and a poor run of early season form in County Cricket.

Conceivably, given the relative success of Morgan and Trott, Bopara would find himself third in line for a vacancy in a batting line-up, and even then his favoured spot at 3 appears far beyond him.

Thus a position at 5 or 6 is more likely-though his best chance may come when Paul Collingwood goes-as he offers the same measure of fielding and bowling as the Durham man.

Yet there are signs that Bopara is beginning to turn things around again during his time with Essex, playing key roles in their T20 victories over Glamorgan and blazing 96 off 65 balls to put away Hampshire.

His latest knock was the best of them all-with 168 runs scored off 140 balls to defeat West Indies A, while also providing valuable contributions with his medium paced bowling-which appears to be improving all the time-as his recent run of wickets has shown.

Back on Track?

Speaking after the game, he underlined his desire to feature for his country again. He said: “It’s always nice to score runs and to do it when you’ve got selectors watching is obviously pleasing and hopefully if I carry on playing like this it will lead to a place in the full England squad again.”

Carry on like this and a recall will almost certainly come. Whether he has quite done enough to earn that recall for this summer’s international fixtures is open for debate, but a summer of hard yards in county cricket could well do some good to a player who often appears to find things all too easy.

But it would be foolish to write off Bopara any time soon, at 25, he may yet live up to the promise which many people saw in him.

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England v Bangladesh – Series Ratings

England

Andrew Strauss – 7

An authoritative return from the England captain after his self-imposed rest over the latter part of the winter. Shrugged off doubts about his early season form with a couple of decent scores at Lords though he will be disappointed to have missed out on a hundred. Captaincy-wise, he was in control without ever doing anything spectacular, and at times appeared unable to stem the flow of runs coming from Tamim Iqbal.

Alastair Cook – 5

After a superhuman tour in Bangladesh, this was back to earth with a bump for the vice captain whose technical improvements over the winter appear to have disappeared upon his return to England. Needs a big Pakistan series ahead of the Ashes campaign.

Jonathan Trott – 8

Would have been harsh to mark him down for his single figure score at Old Trafford after becoming the first English batsmen since Kevin Pietersen to rack up a double century. Reminiscent of the cool, calm presence we first saw in the Ashes rather than the vulnerable one over the winter. Needs to quicken his pre-delivery routine though, but a first test match wicket was a welcome bonus.

Kevin Pietersen – 7

Arrived into the series after being named player of the tournament at the World T20 and while he never lived up to that billing, he showed signs of hitting his straps in Test Matches. Though a year and a half without a Test Match hundred is a statistic he may want to end sooner rather than later.

Ian Bell – 8

A tale of two tests for the Warwickshire man, diffident, almost uneasy at Lords where he resembled the Bell of two years ago. But the Old Trafford Bell was the one of recent times, gritty, responsible and effective. His 128 dug his team out of a hole, and he played the spinners with consummate ease. He appears set for potentially a big year.

Eoin Morgan – 6

Two starts, but little to show for it. While this is just the start for the young Irishman, he will hope to improve on a so-so series. Technically looks the part, and the runs should start flowing should he have further opportunities.

Matt Prior – 7

Hard to criticise his wicket-keeping, as he kept reasonably well with an injured finger. Couple of decent scores, notably his 93 at Old Trafford though he will feel he missed out on a certain hundred with an ugly reverse sweep. Should have done enough to be England’s keeper through until the Ashes, despite the claims of Kieswetter, Davies and Foster, bar a nightmare Pakistan series.

Tim Bresnan – 5

Clearly short of first class form, but his bowling was painfully dismissed by Tamim Iqbal. Will be short of opportunities to impress with the test team before Australia, though his batting could be invaluable in a five-man attack. But sadly for the Yorkshireman this was a series to forget, ended prematurely by a stress fracture.

Graeme Swann – 7

No wickets at Lords, six at Old Trafford. At Lords found conditions which were ill-suited to his style of bowling and clearly struggled. More at home at Old Trafford, where he ran through the Bangladesh line-up. An integral part of this team.

Ajmal Shahzad – 7

Picked for the second test and didn’t disappoint. Pace-regularly clocking up 90 miles per hour, reverse swing and a touch of controlled aggression. Ability to swing the old ball, which was reminiscent of Simon Jones in his pomp, could be vital. A find, and certainly one to watch in the future.

James Anderson – 7

Nothing demonstrated how much Anderson was improving through the series’ than his first and last bowling efforts-the first a rather disastrous struggle, the last a wonderful piece of swing bowling which even Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons admitted would have got better batsmen out. When conditions suit, remains unplayable, and very much the leader of this attack. His Slip fielding-as shown by his catches off Graeme Swann at Old Trafford-is very much improving.

Steven Finn – 9

Perhaps, quite literally, the biggest find in England’s bowling attack since Stuart Broad emerged onto the scene. Offers terrific height at decent pace, which was too much for the Bangladeshi batsman and on Australian pitches, he could prove more than useful. Two five wicket hauls tell a story, but all of a sudden he has leapt up the pecking order as an Ashes candidate.

Bangladesh

Tamim Iqbal – 9

Two centuries, each scored in spectacular fashion, confirmed his place as one of the world’s most exciting young batsmen. Far more prestigious names will have struggled to score a better century at Lords than the 21-year old, who could well be a star for Bangladesh over the next decade.

Imrul Kayes – 6

Weakness to the short ball was ruthlessly exposed by Strauss and Finn. That apart, he looked at home and it is a credit to him that, working in tandem with Tamim, he put the English bowlers under pressure in all but the last innings.

Junaid Siddique – 6

Scores of 58 and 74 at Lords-both patient, well-measured innings, showed a sound temperament and technique which will serve the 23-year old well throughout his test career. Had one to forget at Old Trafford, but was by no means a tour to forget for the number three.

Jahurul Islam – 5

Started well at Lords, before falling to the part-time dibby dobblers of Jonathan Trott in the second innings. Yet after that it was the stuff of nightmares for the batsmen, as he was out twice to horrible shots, one to a turning Swann delivery the other to a rising Finn ball which he hit straight to the wicketkeeper with Bangladesh in trouble.

Mohammed Ashraful – 3

The batsman will have fond memories of his previous trip to England when he led Bangladesh to victory over Australia, but this was a nadir even by his recent standards. A player of obvious talent, and still the countries’ leading century-maker, but his game appears in crisis as his average continues to plummit.

Shakib Al Hasan – 6

Tough to mark, because his bowling-tight and perhaps the most threatening of all his bowlers-deserves far higher. But his batting was poor as he struggled to cope with England’s bowling, and his captaincy was at times far too defensive-indicative of his side’s expectations. Needs help from others if he is to lead this team out of their present position.

Mushfiqur Rahim – 3

Much improved keeper, but his batting floundered as he was probably put two rungs too low in the order and often left trying to save positions with only the tail for help. That said, he badly underperformed-with only 40 runs in 4 innings-but despite such travails appears technically sound enough to bat at number 5.

Mahmudullah – 7

Deserves better from his team, as a player who clearly can bat-as his maiden test hundred against New Zealand shows-he too deserves a place two places up the order rather than his current spot at number 8. Showed plenty of spark with a late hitting 38 at Old Trafford, but was too often marooned with the lower order. His bowling was useful, and his off-spinners perhaps should have been used more often by his captain.

Shaful Islam – 6

Not picked for Lords, but bolstered his side’s pace bowling ranks at Old Trafford. Two wickets, Strauss and Trott were real reward for a lively bowler who could well be a big part of Bangladesh’s plans in the coming years.

Shahadat Hossain – 6

A five-for at Lords were real reward for a capable spell of swing bowling, but after that the pace man became more synonymous for the grunts after his release of the ball. Was hit to all parts in the second innings at Lords, and presented little more than a passing threat at Old Trafford.

Abdul Razzak – 5

Ostensibly the slow left armer is Bangladesh’s number one spinner, but he was outshone by Shakib and Mahmudullah at Old Trafford after not being picked at Lords, despite picking up Alastair Cook with his first ball of the series.

Rohibul Islam – 3

Picked by Jamie Siddons for Lords, but the youngster struggled to cope with conditions and failed to make much impression on the game.

Rubel Hossain – 3

Picked up one wicket, that of Ian Bell, but offered little real threat and was perhaps a wicket which as much surprised the bowler as much as the batsman.