Bopara enjoying England role
Ravi Bopara feels he is getting back in the groove after returning from more than three cricket-less months to hit consecutive fifties in England’s two one-day international victories against Pakistan.
Bopara’s only innings between the 5-0 series defeat England suffered in India last October and wins in their first two ODIs at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium came in the preparation match against the Lions at the same venue last week.
Yet barring some nervous moments in his first half-century, he has batted convincingly in two important stands with his in-form captain Alastair Cook.
Even so, Bopara - who has been pushed back up the order to number four following Kevin Pietersen’s promotion to open the innings - believes he is only now becoming accustomed again to what is required.
“I felt a lot better yesterday than I did in the first game,” he said, reflecting on the 20-run win which included a second successive hundred for Cook and took England into a 2-0 lead with just two more matches to play.
“I was just getting used to the bowlers, and it was my second game since October.
“It makes a massive difference once you’ve had that time at the crease.”
Bopara's second fifty yesterday was one of several similarities between England’s two wins against Pakistan.
Cook's century and fast bowler Steven Finn’s identical figures of 4-34 in each match provided more uncanny echoes of what had gone two days before.
Bopara is hugely impressed with Finn.
“The way he is bowling up front ... I’ve never known a bowler to go for such a low economy rate and take wickets the way he has,” he continued.
“He’s improved so much over the last 12 months, and good on him. He deserves it.”
Bopara will nonetheless be discouraging his team-mates from the notion that they can wrap up the series with the minimum fuss in Dubai.
“I wouldn’t want to think like that,” he said. “We’ve done that in the past. Individually, we’ve got a bit giddy and things just go wrong, so we’re not going to look too far ahead.”
In the long-term, Bopara hopes to be part of the Test squad England will name at the end of this tour, to travel to Sri Lanka next month.
But he knows first of all he must concentrate on the here and now - most urgently staying on top of Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.
He said: “I remember last summer, against India, I had a good series - but then I went out to India and didn’t.
“Things can change so quickly. I’m just keeping my feet on the ground. I’m just thinking about Ajmal and how I’m going to deal with him.
“I’m not looking ahead to Sri Lanka. We’ve got two more ODIs and three T20s - there’s so many games before we start thinking about Sri Lanka.”
Bopara retains his ambition nonetheless to add significantly to his 12 Test caps.
“Obviously, I want to play Test cricket for England,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal and achievement - to stay in that side and win things.
“That’s my main aim. That’s what I’m working towards. Let’s hope I get there some day.”