Bopara out to cement England place
Ravi Bopara knows he has an outstanding chance, in the final three NatWest Series matches against India, to book a seat on England's plane to the subcontinent for next month's rematch.
A stop-start one-day international career of 61 caps so far means, of course, he will be wary of looking even that far ahead.
But there is no doubt the cards have fallen in the 26-year-old's favour this time, to push on from an average of 28.51 - a reasonable return for a batsman who has only five half-centuries and top score of just 60.
There has been mitigation for Bopara, who like several others has found himself shunted up and down a batting order containing such fixtures as Kevin Pietersen at number four, Jonathan Trott at three and one of Andrew Strauss and now Alastair Cook nailing down an opening spot.
But as England seek to consolidate their sixth victory in successive completed matches against India this summer - by seven wickets at the Rose Bowl yesterday - in pursuit of series victory, Bopara will be well aware the field has cleared a little for prospective one-day international batting positions.
Not only is Pietersen being rested but Eoin Morgan, the man who nosed ahead of Bopara at the last minute before the first npower Test against Sri Lanka and has been an ever-present since, is suddenly out of the equation at least for the rest of this season.
Morgan was a late absentee from England's win on the South Downs, with a shoulder injury which has been troubling him since last winter and is now causing him so much pain that he must sit out the remainder of the series.
Even so Bopara, who made a handy 24 from number four in a 60-run stand with captain and man of the match Cook to help put England 1-0 up last night, knows plenty more will be needed if he is to merit consistent selection.
"I was a bit surprised Eoin was not fit, but nevertheless I was told early enough and was given time to prepare," he said.
"There has been discomfort with his shoulder for a while now - and yesterday it got to its worst, I'm guessing."
The upshot for Bopara is that, continuing at the Kia Oval on Friday, he can look forward to the remainder of an audition which is likely to extend to four matches.
"I've not been told that - but obviously I'd like to play and fight for that spot," he said.
"It's a great chance to make it into the first XI and then perform and cement a place in the side.
"With guys resting and a few injuries about, there is a great opportunity to cement my place, and take it game by game."
Bopara is heartened by his own initial contribution, but still more impressed by the range of stroke Cook demonstrated - in an unbeaten 80 from only 63 balls, albeit on a very good batting wicket, which made a mockery of those who once feared he could not adapt his game acceptably to the shorter formats.
"It was a fantastic knock," Bopara said of his Essex and England colleague's efforts.
"It was a mixture of touch play and power. It was a very good innings in the circumstances - chasing 190 in 23 overs. That's never an easy total to get, as we know in Twenty20 cricket."
Cook was the headline act, but Bopara praised an all-round England performance which also included a brutal 46 at the top of the order from Craig Kieswetter and some admirable bowling from Graeme Swann in tough conditions.
"The way we went about our business was unbelievable, especially some of the batters," he said.
"I thought the way our batters went about chasing it was spot on. When I went in we obviously needed a few runs, and it was important I got a partnership going with Cookie.
"The most important thing was to keep our concentration on a pretty good wicket. We looked to be fairly positive and keep the bowlers under pressure."