Cricket: Bopara happy to do his bit for Essex
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 May 2018
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Ravi Bopara resisted the opportunity of the early birthday present of a first-class century when he could have selfishly opted for an early-evening thrash at the Ageas Bowl.
Bopara, who reaches the grand old age of 33 today, could have batted on for the remaining 13 balls of the match at Hampshire and raised his bat for the 28th time in red-ball cricket. But he refused the chance of cheap runs and opted to honour the declaration when Essex reached 300 and secured their third batting point from the weather-wrecked draw.
With 16 runs required to reach three figures, captain Ryan ten Doeschate left it up to Bopara whether he wanted to carry on in the middle. The Essex all-rounder said: “When I looked up at the dressing room when we reached 300, Tendo indicated, ‘Do you want to go for you hundred?’
“I didn’t want to score a hundred in that situation where the target had been achieved before the overs were finished. I didn’t want to go, ‘You know what, I’ll slog the last two overs and hopefully get to a hundred’. It’s not the way I want to do it. Every hundred you score in first-class cricket is a big deal.
“I would have backed myself to get the extra 16 runs with the 12 balls remaining. But those runs wouldn’t have felt like a graft. In a proper game, those last 16 runs would be hard work. I just wanted to help the team get to 300, that was the most important thing. That was the focus and what the whole of that innings was about – not me getting a hundred – and we achieved that.”
It must have been tempting. Bopara has scored just one red-ball ton in nearly four years: the 192 compiled against Warwickshire in last year’s surge to the Specsavers County Championship title.
“I wasn’t fazed whether I got a hundred or not. I know I’m going to score hundreds. I know they’re coming; they’re round the corner. I’ll get a few this year. And not only this year, but in the years to come for Essex,” he added.
Essex play Yorkshire at The Cloudfm County Ground today with the memory of the four-day wash-out at Headingley fresh in the mind.
“Headingley was a loss,” Bopara insisted. “Five points was not good for us, especially being defending champions. So we’ve got a bit of work to do. We’re sitting fourth in the table having played a game extra than some of the other teams.
“But it’s very early days. We have just one point less than we had after three games last year. We came good from around this time last year. I feel it starting to happen again. The batters are in a good place, Jamie’s still bowling really well, Harmer’s still bowling really well, and we’re back here this week at Chelmsford, which is a little fortress for us at the moment.”
Not only is it Bopara’s birthday, he also reaches the milestone of 200 first-class career appearances. “That’s a lovely achievement,” he said. “I thought I would have played more than 200, but there was a period where I was playing for England and missed a few games.”
Bopara is playing throughout the year. During the winter he helped Rangpur Riders to the Bangladesh Premier League title and Karachi Kings to the last four in the Pakistan Super League.
In between he played in the Hong Kong T20 as well as playing in the final of the Sharjah T10 tournament for Punjabi Legends. Bopara is a fan of the shortest short-format game.
“White-ball cricket is moving fast and if you don’t keep up with it you’ll be left behind. You can’t just sit it out and think you can come back and catch up. You need to keep playing,” he added.
“Nothing rivals football, but T10 puts it on a level where it’s just 90 minutes’ play. Speaking as a cricketer I think it’s a perfect length for a game. It’s fast, it’s furious, there’s lots and lots of boundaries, every over is a death over.
“As a bowler you know you could easily go for six sixes because you’ve got proper batsmen against you. People can go for 25 an over and they’re shrugging their shoulders like it’s normal. It’s great for the whole family.”