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Page last updated at 22:32 GMT, Saturday, 18 July 2009 23:32 UK

Bopara in need of Ashes impact

Ravi Bopara

By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at Lord's

The weekend before the Ashes began, Ravi Bopara gave a fascinating first-person account of how he felt going into the biggest Test series of his career to date.

Explaining how he was unimpressed by Australians, past or present, trying to intimidate England's players through words alone, Bopara said: "Whether the words are from Shane Warne or whoever, how are they supposed to hurt me?

"Is he trying to intimidate or put pressure on me? Pressure? Pressure is when you've got a knife in your face and someone says, 'Give me what you've got'."

He went on to explain how exactly that had happened to him when he was 12 years old, growing up in the mean streets of east London.

That kind of anecdote might explain why he often wears a carefree expression as he marches out to bat, whatever the situation, and why he betrays so little emotion in general on a cricket field.

It is clear that he is blessed with enviable talents, and had been in terrific form all year - in all formats of the game - until this series. But he has now hit a small crisis, with scores of 35, 1, 18 and a particularly scratchy 27 behind him.

It might only be a temporary blip, and I think he is certain to keep his place in the side when England head to Edgbaston despite Ian Bell hitting a century for Warwickshire on Thursday. But if Australia were to find a way of winning the third Test, with Bopara struggling again, then the difficult number three spot might have to be re-assessed.

606: DEBATE

Part of the attraction of selecting Bopara in this England side is the knowledge that he does not come to the crease riddled with nerves or the fear of failure.

But some commentators have accused him of being a bit too casual at times - and he certainly fell to a loose stroke on Friday when he popped up a catch to short-leg off Australia's admirable, though injured, spinner Nathan Hauritz.

It was, frankly, a painful innings to watch. He was dropped on nine, and was inches away from giving mid-on a catch on 19. It must have been infuriating for him to occasionally see a number of his cuts and drives middled, but hit straight to fielders.

Nevertheless, his entire innings contained just 13 scoring shots from 93 deliveries - at a time when he and Kevin Pietersen should have been batting Australia out of the game.

Bopara is the role-model for the next generation - a boy who scrambled 10 team-mates together from his inner London state school to enter a Capital Kids competition run by the Lord's Taverners, which they won.

The England and Wales Cricket Board must be thrilled at his achievement in reaching the highest level at a time when they are stressing their various pledges to funnel cash into exactly the sort of scheme Bopara profited from.

He is one of the first to do so, and it is indicative of the strides that must still be made as the other three members of England's top four went to private school.

For what it's worth, my money's on Bopara's current malaise being a temporary problem. But it would be great if he got past 50 at least in his first innings in Birmingham.



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see also
England open up huge Lord's lead
18 Jul 09 |  England
Prior wants huge England effort
19 Jul 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
18 Jul 09 |  Cricket
England v Australia photos
18 Jul 09 |  Cricket


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