Bopara targets Edgbaston century
Ravi Bopara has his eyes on an Edgbaston hundred which will prove he has the same big-match mettle as Jonathan Trott.
It is two years ago today that Bopara played the last of his 10 Tests so far for England, replaced then by Trott for an Ashes decider at The Oval in which the latter helped to clinch the urn with a century on debut.
Bopara could return tomorrow as England set their sights on the victory which would not only wrap up the npower series with a 3-0 lead over India but make Andrew Strauss’ team the first from these shores to reach the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
Should he respond with a three-figure score - it would be Bopara’s fourth at the highest level - there would be a pleasing symmetry in his achievement.
It may be an unfair expectation on his Test comeback, but Bopara is not frightened of inviting added pressure.
“When Trotty came in for me in the Ashes he got a hundred; now I’m coming in for him, I hope I can get a hundred,” he said.
Bopara knows Trott, unavailable here because of the shoulder injury he suffered in last week’s victory at Trent Bridge, will be back if fit for the fourth Test at The Oval next week.
He accepts too his two-year hiatus has been far from ideal, but thinks there is still time for him to have a “proper” England career.
“I’m only 26,” he said. “You don’t want to be really starting your Test career at 30 - I want to start now.
“Now’s an ideal time. I can’t keep saying to myself ‘This is my last opportunity’ - because I don’t feel like that.
“This is an opportunity, but it’s not rocket science that Trotty will come straight back in - he’s a class player and he’s proved himself for England many many times.
“This is a little window of opportunity for me to go out and score runs and prove to myself [I can be a Test player].”
Bopara has not drawn firm conclusions about why his Test career faltered, in a run of low scores from number three in the 2009 Ashes.
But he is determined to set the record straight - and for good measure, make sure he satisfies the high standards of his former Essex team-mate and current England team director Andy Flower.
“I might not have been ready. It might have been that I wasn’t a well-rounded enough player to survive in Test cricket at that time,” he said.
“Andy Flower is very disciplined and a hard man. He’s hard to please at times, which makes you work even harder.
“When I played with him at Essex he was very tough on himself, which is probably why he was such a great performer.”
Bopara will have to excel himself to content Flower.
“At Essex I pleased him when I was giving him throw-downs...
“I think that when I got three hundreds in a row [against West Indies in 2009] that would have pleased him.”
If he adds a fourth this week, he will be keeping a few other people pretty happy too.