The omens are beginning to look good for England's one-day side, who successfully rid themselves of another of their failings on Thursday evening when they defeated India by three wickets in Manchester. The best limited-over teams are those who consistently post big scores and win improbable games of cricket, and in the opening four matches of the NatWest Series Paul Collingwood's side have achieved both.
Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad were the stars under the lights at Old Trafford, putting on 99 unbeaten runs for the eighth wicket when all seemed lost. The masterful performance of the inexperienced pair, who took England past India's respectable total of 212 from the perilous position of 114 for 7, put into context the disappointing batting of those who went before them. Bopara and Broad, with a combined tally of 26 one-day internationals, won a game previous England sides would have lost.
For Bopara it was not the first occasion he had found himself in such a position. During the World Cup in April the then 21-year-old took England to the brink of a memorable victory over Sri Lanka, a win that could well have seen his side qualify for the semi-finals. But, having dragged England from a position of hopelessness with a superb 52 off 53 balls, he was bowled by the final ball of the game with his side three agonising runs short. Bopara believes that the experience he gained in Antigua allowed him to complete the job two nights ago and move England into a 3-1 series lead.
"I've never really been in a run-chase situation like that with Essex but I have with England in the World Cup and I used that," admitted Bopara. "I thought out there it was a similar situation and I didn't want to go through the disappointment of not finishing it off this time. You learn from your mistakes, I guess, and I didn't want to fall short again.
"It was a brilliant feeling especially when we came off, the lads in the dressing room were on a real high. Out there we did not have to worry about the overs, it was just a case of getting the runs. We didn't have to go at five, six, seven an over, we knew all we had to do was score 99 runs and we said, 'Let's get them in tens'. All you need to think about in that situation is let's get 10 more runs, and when you get that 10 you just have to get 10 more.
"When we had about 30 to go I started to think we were getting there, it wasn't too many runs to go and the Indians started to get quiet too. They were pretty fiery to start, they'd bowled pretty well up front and were excited about getting K P [Kevin Pietersen] and Colly [Paul Collingwood] out, but they went much quieter as we got close and I almost knew we had won it then.
"When I'm batting I don't think too much about the end result, I just think about what I need to do at the time and that helps me stay calm I guess – don't think about the bigger picture, just getting the next few runs. I think that is why people feel I look so relaxed."
Bopara, like Broad, is keen to use the one-day game to push for a place in the Test side and the next six weeks, when England compete in the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa before playing five one-dayers in Sri Lanka, will give them both the opportunity to challenge for selection on the pre-Christmas Test tour of Sri Lanka.
"Any cricketer is looking to make that step, but these are exciting times for me and I'm not looking too far ahead," Bopara said. "Yes, I've had brief thoughts about Test cricket but all my thoughts at the moment are on this series, I don't want any extra pressure at the moment. I think both forms of cricket have their ultimate challenges. In one-day cricket you have to bat fluently against the best bowlers in the world. Test cricket is a bit different, I guess, but the basics are probably still the same."
The one-day circus is now in Leeds preparing for tomorrow's crucial encounter at Headingley. Victory would allow Collingwood's side to celebrate their progress with a trophy. Unlike in Australia earlier this year, when England won the Commonwealth Bank Series more through luck than judgement, this time it feels for real. Bopara and Broad are two of the key reasons for the feeling of optimism.
India are waiting on the fitness of their seam bowler Zaheer Khan after he twisted an ankle on Thursday.Reuse content