England better than ever - Bopara
Ravi Bopara believes England’s current one-day international side is the strongest he has played in.
Bopara contributed 82 at the Kia Oval as Alastair Cook’s men made it eight ODI wins in a row and moved 2-0 up in the five-match NatWest Series with a convincing six-wicket victory over Australia.
After triumphing by 15 runs at Lord’s two days ago, the hosts cantered to a target of 252 today and appear full of confidence in the 50-over format.
Asked to compare this England team to previous ones he has been involved with, Essex batsman Bopara said: “I think this is probably the best side we've ever had.
"The bowlers are performing really well, putting pressure on (opposition) batsmen - and then there's always someone in the top six (for us) that goes on and gets a big score.”
Commenting on his own elegant 85-ball innings, which ended in cruel fashion when he was run out by Brett Lee’s direct hit at the non-striker’s end with just two required, Bopara added: “I enjoyed myself out there. I told myself just to watch the ball, and hit it, and I play my best when I do that.
“I think I'm batting the best I ever have. A few changes that I've made over these last six months have really worked for me.”
Cook was naturally satisfied to follow up Friday’s win with another impressive all-round display.
“You've got two really good performances from us in three days,” said England’s skipper.
"Consistency over a long period for us in one-day cricket has been a slight problem.
“We always knew we could put good performances in. But to back it up time and time again is probably where we've gone wrong in the past - so to do it twice in three days against Australia, as a captain that's really pleasing.”
England seized control of today’s match by restricting Australia to just 40 runs between the 21st and 35th overs of their innings.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann bowled particularly impressively en route to 1-27 from eight, while Bopara chipped in with the wicket of Michael Clarke and conceded just 16 in five overs.
Although George Bailey eventually accelerated to reach 65, one fewer than opener Shane Watson, Australia’s total of 251 for seven always appeared likely to be inadequate, and so it proved.
“Where we were really quite strong today was when Swanny came on,” Cook acknowledged.
“We squeezed really well – with a few overs from Ravi as well.
“There was a little bit in it for the bowlers, probably a little bit more than we thought, but at the Oval 250 is always gettable and it was another really solid batting performance.”
England were forced to cope without pace spearhead James Anderson, who is suffering from a tight groin and was replaced by Jade Dernbach.
Cook was unable to confirm whether the Lancashire seamer will be fit for Wednesday’s third game at Edgbaston, where England could now seal the series.
"We're not sure yet,” said Cook when questioned on Anderson’s chances of playing in Birmingham.
“If it was a World Cup final, he probably would have played today, but it would have been mad to risk him ... we want people to be fully fit to play.”