01 May 2009

Ravi to revel in right position

The number three spot was the most talked about position when England’s first Test squad of the summer was announced. Michael Vaughan, Owais Shah and Ian Bell were thought to be contesting the role, but Ravi Bopara was instead given the nod.

This should come as no surprise. Bopara scored a century in his last Test innings, albeit from number six on a flat Barbados pitch, and is one of England’s current One Day openers. He scored his mountain of 2008 runs for Essex from first wicket down.

Shah badly missed his opportunity to make the role his in the Caribbean and has been sat on the sidelines in the Indian Premier League (whilst Bopara has played one of the best innings of the tournament so far). He is suddenly at the back of the cue.

Bell, the long-time incumbent, cannot be recalled so soon after being dropped – a few runs at county level do not make up for his 16-Test run at number three without a century – and Vaughan has not played the big innings that would have got the selectors’ attention.

They surely still plan to use the former skipper this summer, but will hope he has regained his touch and timing when the opportunity arises. He will slot in against the Aussies if Bopara or any of the top order consistently struggle for runs, as long as he looks ready.

New coach and former county colleague Andy Flower is obviously a big fan of Bopara, who looks to have all the right attributes to succeed in the pivotal position: excellent technique, phlegmatic demeanour and mental toughness.

Some might say having a brand new number three for an Ashes series is risky, and whilst the Aussie pacemen will certainly target Bopara, his self-assurance and swagger mean he is likely cope with the pressure.

It seems a safe cricket bet that England need to be aggressive to beat Australia and Bopara showed in his Barbados dual with Fidel Edwards that he likes confrontation. Shah and Bell are more passive.

Whether the Essex man is the long-term number three solution is another question, but a good start on a flat Lord’s pitch will help justify the faith that has been put in him.

1 comment:

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