The revolving doors of the last-chance saloon were taking their final spin when England and Essex right-hander Ravi Bopara finally received a surprise, 11th-hour opportunity to catch the eye of the Test selectors here yesterday.
The respective captains, Mark Pettini for Essex and Middlesex's Eoin Morgan, finally brokered a last-day run-chase deal around 3pm which entailed a couple of joke overs, one from Alastair Cook then five balls from Pettini that cost 24 runs before Middlesex declared on 229 for 7, setting Essex 241 to win from 45 overs.
It appeared a generous deal on Morgan's part as these were short boundaries at Lord's and the pitch remained flat and true, but to Bopara, whose England place for The Oval next week is under most threat, this was manna from heaven.
Facing an asking rate of 5.35 an over when their second innings started, Essex made a flying start through the makeshift opening pair of Cook and Pettini, who promoted himself to pinch hit at the top of the order in place of "steady" John Maunders. The ploy worked superbly as the duo posted 100 in 76 minutes with Cook racing to a chancy half-century from 59 balls. When Pettini fell, Bopara came in with his side needing a further 141 in 23 overs. Surely this was the stage he had been hoping for? He stood at the other end as Cook's innings ended after 79 balls and 10 boundaries in a rather absurd manner. Racing down the pitch aiming to clip leg-side over the infield the ball appeared to clip Cook's heel, go around his legs to spin back on to the stumps.
Bopara was joined by South Africa-born Netherlands all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate and, to Bopara's undoubted disappointment, it was he who commanded centre stage with a 19-ball cameo worth 40 with two sixes and a couple of fours.
The third-wicket pair added 76 in eight overs, but it was Ten Doeschate who maintained the momentum with sixes into the second tier of the Edrich Stand and another into the grandstand before he was out – bowled when attempting to club a length ball from Murali Kartik into the Mound Stand.
With his side on 212 for 4 Bopara took responsibility. Timing the ball well for the first time in a while he muscled five fours on his way to a 59-ball 50 – his first for his county since September last year. Essex romped home to a five-wicket win.Reuse content