By Paul Hiscock
Essex and England all-rounder Ravi Bopara says it has taken him until the age of 29 to work out his best batting game plan for Twenty20 cricket.
The result for Bopara, this season, is a wonderful run of form with the Eagles as they have powered their way to the top of the NatWest T20 Blast South Group.
Since returning from England limited-overs duty against Sri Lanka, Bopara has scored 207 runs for just once out in four innings for Essex, who have won five of their first six group games.
His strike-rate is an impressive 168.29 runs per 100 balls and Bopara has already hit 12 sixes and 14 fours.
His last two innings were 81 not out from 44 balls against Kent Spitfires at Canterbury and an unbeaten 66 from 39 deliveries versus Gloucestershire in front of an adoring Chelmsford crowd.
Both knocks guided the Eagles to victory as Bopara stage-managed the run-chases to perfection.
“I think I’m getting better at the game of Twenty20 cricket,” Bopara told ecb.co.uk. “I’ve worked out how to play it. I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed it; I’ve just worked out a better way to play it and it’s working for me at the moment.
“All that comes through the experience of playing more and more Twenty20 cricket because we don’t grow up learning how to hit sixes – at least I certainly didn’t. We didn’t do that because Twenty20 wasn’t around.
“The younger players coming through now, your 14- and 15-year-olds, do practice hitting sixes and that’s why, by the time they are 20 or 21, they are used to doing it.
“I had to learn that; it’s taken a while but I find I’m getting there and it’s great fun doing it.”
Bopara said scoring 162 against Kent in the LV= County Championship game which preceded the Blast match last Wednesday evening was a massive part of his subsequent successes.
He added: “I needed time in the middle. You can practice as much as you like in the nets but it’s never the same as batting in a match.
“I believe that the century I got in the four-day match with Kent, just before we played the T20 game, really helped because it was as if I already had my eye in.
“I was confident and batting is all about confidence. If you are confident in your technique, which I am, the rest of it is just hitting through the ball. So it was a good and valuable time for me at Canterbury.
“I feel comfortable, I’m hitting the ball hard and I’m happy at the way the ball is coming off the bat. It also helps having a good bat!
“When you are in a run-chase, you have to pick your opportunities to go for boundaries while keeping the score ticking along with the ones and twos.
“You have to decide when to go hard and when to stay in the game. The further you take the game to the opposition, the more pressure there is on the bowler.
“The way the team is playing, at the moment, you would think that we could do really well in the competition this season but Twenty20 can be a cruel game especially when you get to the knockout stages.
“One over can see you eliminated. One bad over with the ball or the bat, a dropped catch and it can prove crucial. But that’s Twenty20 cricket.”