England are one nil up with three to play. Everything seems to be rosy in the home team camp. Not quite true. Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen are nursing injuries, but the major problem seems to be Ravi Bopara.
It doesn’t take much for the number three spot to be under the spotlight and there are already calls for Bopara to be replaced. Many have decided that he lacks the technique and temperament to flourish at first drop. Please stop listening to Shane Warne.
Just as Warne’s withering assessment of Monty Panesar undermined our most talented spinner of recent years, the Aussie legend has delivered his damning verdict on Bopara, seemingly based on a clash between the pair in county cricket.
The poker-playing commentator might be trying one of his mind games on England for old time’s sake. The likely beneficiary of Bopara being dropped is Ian Bell – Warne’s ‘Sherminator’ bunny – who the Aussie legend would presumably love to see back at number three.
Bell hasn’t scored a single century at number three in 16 Tests, averaging 31. Owais Shah averaged 28.33 from the six matches he was given to cement the role. If Shah was jettisoned unfairly, Bopara’s axing would be even harsher.
True, he is yet to convince in the position in this series, but he has received one bad umpiring decision and a couple of excellent deliveries. His centuries against West Indies do not hold too much credence but should not be forgotten.
Bell was given two full Ashes series at numbers three and four but managed a top score of 87. He faced a far more testing attack than the one Bopara has to deal with, but also struggled to impose himself in the top order against lesser opposition.
Bopara’s tortuous effort on day three of the Lord’s Test, exacerbated by Pietersen’s similar efforts to rediscover form at the other end, suggested a player in turmoil.
He was in fact just facing the best spell of Aussie bowling in the series so far and his frustration at getting out softly to Nathan Hauritz revealed his disappointment at not getting through a sticky spell. He will come through in this series, hopefully at Edgbaston.
For now, keep a close eye on the Third Test odds before placing your Edgsbaston Test bet and, if you want to get in the mood for rivalry, check out Betfair's fanvfan site.