Ravi Bopara's last chance saloon

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The Independent Online

This really is it for Ravi Bopara. He should not be surprised, as he arrives at the ground tomorrow for the start of the third Test against India, if the sign above the gate says: "Welcome to Edgbaston, Last Chance Saloon".

Recalled to the England side for the third time since making his first appearance almost four years ago, Bopara is in a classic no-win situation. If he succeeds in making runs the likelihood is that Jonathan Trott will resume as soon as he is fit.

It happened to Bopara once before and he said yesterday: "It is not rocket science that Trotty will come back. He is a class player. But this window of opportunity for me is to prove myself."

But were he to fail, the selectors may decide that others, like James Taylor, must be given a chance.

"If I was to say there has never been any self-doubt, I'd be lying," said Bopara. "But I back my ability."

Bopara has been the coming man for ages, a batsman of considerable style who first played for Essex when he had just turned 17 in 2002. He broke into national consciousness in 2005 when he and Alastair Cook shared a second-wicket partnership of 270 against Australia.

Soon enough he had the England call. His first series in Sri Lanka ended disastrously with three consecutive ducks. It took more than a year to win another chance.

Called up to the side for the fourth Test in Barbados in 2009 he made 104 and was promptly omitted for the next match. But by the summer, the selectors put him back in and he responded with two more centuries.

A long-term place in the England batting order was his.

But then Bopara had a dreadful Ashes series and his tenure ended in the disaster at Headingley, when England lost the fourth Test by an innings and 80 runs.

He has been around the one-day side since and was nearly recalled to the Test team for the first match against Sri Lanka in May.

At the start of the season, Bopara turned his back on the attentions of the Indian Premier League and instead concentrated on honing his first-class form with Essex, which also allowed him to be at home for the birth of his first child, Rome.

Eoin Morgan then turned up for England Lions against Sri Lanka and made a handsome 193 following Bopara's typically fitful 17.

And now this. Trott injured his shoulder last week and the selectors decided go with Bopara. There is no doubt that the 178 he made at Southend a fortnight ago was vital.

"It was very crucial," he said. "I am glad I played it."

He is a cheery fellow who is obsessed by cricket, but his lack of organisation is renowned. He is habitually late and once forgot his passport before an England trip.

"I am very forgetful," he said. "I have invested in an iPad that has helped me a lot. I receive my emails straight away whereas before I needed a computer to log on. My life is certainly more organised now."

He conceded that he had not always been able to grind it out, though he mentioned that he had done just that at Lord's against the West Indies two years ago.

He will probably bat at six tomorrow, although the No 3 place was his for the taking two years ago. Who knows? Bopara might be the first Test cricketer to be made by possession of an iPad. But when he goes out tomorrow he would still be wise to remember his bat.

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