Bopara back for a brief test of mettle

It might take a quadruple century to keep him in the side but the Essex batsman must state his case in Trott's absence, writes Stephen Brenkley

After a gap of two years and one day, Ravi Bopara will resume his Test career on Wednesday.

While it is the blink of an eye compared to the 17 years and 314 days that George Gunn waited to play again for England between 1912 and 1930, it will have felt like an epoch to Bopara.

He was picked yesterday in a squad of 13 for the Third Test against India at Edgbaston, after Jonathan Trott failed to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in the second match at Nottingham. Unless the selectors suddenly depart from their tried, trusted and winning method of six batsmen, four bowlers and a wicketkeeper, Bopara will feature somewhere in the middle order.

The absence of Trott is a blow for England, though he has been relatively muted in this series. India's problems, 2-0 down and looking weary, wobbly and out of form, are much greater. If they lose in Birmingham they will be replaced as the official No 1 Test side by England, though on the basis of the past fortnight the transfer has occurred.

There must have been times during the 23 matches that England have played without him when Bopara thought his chance would never come again. His Test career has had two distinct parts – the first consisted of three consecutive ducks and the second of three consecutive centuries before another duck. When it seemed certain that he would be selected at the start of this season, along came Eoin Morgan to score a hundred in an England Lions match and win the place instead.

It would have been tough, though not necessarily unfair, had Bopara missed out again. If Lions matches are to mean anything, and Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors, continues to insist they do, there is a case for viewing them partially as Test trials.

In that case, Bopara has failed his trial twice this season, with scores of 17, 25, 19 and 25, whereas James Taylor, generally considered to be his closest contender, has made 76, 17, 76 and 98. Taylor's form for Leicestershire in the Championship Division Two has been fairly moderate.

Although Bopara embarked on a lean run after losing out to Morgan, the selectors may have been convinced by a dogged, craftsmanlike 178 on a tricky pitch at Southend last week – against Leicestershire, when Taylor's scores were 19 and 4. Bopara's seam bowling, too easily under-rated, was probably part of the equation.

In a four-man attack, a part-time fifth bowler is usually essential. Trott has filled the role with varying degrees of adequacy this summer – Bopara, who has taken 25 wickets in 2011, will do it better. Taylor bowls very occasional leg spin which has yet to bring him a first-class wicket.

In any event, Bopara would probably have to make a quadruple hundred for the match starting on Wednesday to be anything other than a one-off. His position in the order is likely to be five or six. Ian Bell will stay at three, where he made a magnificent 159 in Nottingham. The innings was blighted by his controversial run-out on the stroke of tea on the third day but that should not expunge the sheer delight of his play.

The selectors have named five seam bowlers, with Steve Finn in as cover for Chris Tremlett. The selectors expect Tremlett to have recovered from his hamstring niggle and back spasm, which forced him to miss the last match, in which case they will have the conundrum of whether to drop Tim Bresnan. Bresnan took seven wickets and a made a blazing 90 in the second innings at Trent Bridge.

None of which adds up to anything remotely as dreadful as the difficulties facing India. It is not simply that they have twice been beaten resoundingly but that they have allowed themselves to be deprived of advantageous positions. At Lord's and Trent Bridge, having won the toss, the tourists had chances. Many reasons have been proposed for their lack of spirit. Perhaps the re-introduction of the opening batsman Virender Sehwag and left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who have both been injured, will rectify some of their defects.

On paper at least there is talent in such abundance that they should be able to make some sort of response. If they can win one match they keep their No 1 position. But it is not looking good – actually, it is looking terrible and their new coach, Duncan Fletcher, must wonder what he has got himself into. His mind may wander back to 1999, when he took over an England side that had dropped to bottom in the world.

It took Fletcher a while to find the players he wanted and it may take him longer in India. In England he already had considerable knowledge of players from his time as coach at Glamorgan. If Fletcher's chief quality as a coach is his technical expertise, particularly in regard to batting, his patience is another. All players say that when they ask a question, he rarely gives an answer immediately but will dwell on it and give a considered response later.

From the look of this India side, with its ageing batting line-up, inadequate bowling and distracted captain, he has a lot of responses to ponder. If he can get India out of this with a draw, it would be talked of in the same breath as the 2005 Ashes. It is England's series to lose now.

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own