Looking out over the Scarborough Cricket Club, Ravi Bopara does not need reminding of the importance of an England Lions match.
Back in May, Bopara was the favourite to replace Paul Collingwood in England's middle order for the first Test of the summer when Eoin Morgan's chanceless 193 for the Lions against Sri Lanka resulted in the Irishman being given an opportunity that many considered should have gone to Bopara – not least because he had turned down £100,000 to play in the IPL in order to work on his game at home, while Morgan took the loot.
If Jonathan Trott's injury proves serious enough to keep him out of the third Test, selectorial eyes will again turn to the Lions. Bopara, fresh from an outstanding 178 for Essex on a sporty wicket in the Championship win over Leicestershire, appears to be at the head of a queue including James Taylor, Samit Patel and James Hildreth. After what happened in May, the Londoner must be quietly determined not to be outscored again.
"These matches are obviously important, so I'm looking to continue my four-day form in this game," said Bopara yesterday. "Having said that, back in May I thought Morgan was going to get picked anyway – he went into the Ashes series and all that sort of stuff, so I would have had to do something special to get ahead of him, I think.
"But that's the past; it's all about what happens in the next few days, what happens with Trott, and I just have to concentrate on what I've got to do."
Bopara insisted that he would not change his decision to turn down the IPL chance, and that he is a better player for having done so. "I invested that time into my game, and over the past couple of months I have learnt a bit about when to rein my game in, and finding ways to survive," he said.
"This is the first year I've played against the Tiflex cricket ball, which swings more and has got bigger seams, and making runs on early-season wickets wasn't easy, but I think I'm a better player for it."
Whether he will get the chance to prove it in international cricket before the winter remains to be seen. Even if Trott is ruled out, it may be that the selectors decide Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan's batting down the order is now of a sufficiently high standard to allow them to leave out a specialist batsman and simply bring back Chris Tremlett.
Both Bopara and Lions captain Taylor pointed out that all they can do is score runs on the North Yorkshire coast and hope for recognition.
"I've had a few big scores this season, but for me the key has to be consistency, racking up the runs and showing the selectors what you can do so that if a place becomes available – for whatever reason – you get a chance," said Taylor.
Four in contention
Ravi Bopara Age: 26. Tests: 10. Runs: 502.
Has returned to the England fold for one-day games, and made an excellent century on a sporting pitch for Essex against Leicestershire last week.
James Taylor Age: 21. Uncapped for England.
The Leicestershire opener will captain England Lions today after taking over from James Hildreth, and scored an unbeaten 168 against Sri Lanka A for Leicestershire last month.
James Hildreth Age: 26. Uncapped for England.
The Somerset man has been less than convincing this season until he hit 137 against Nottinghamshire.
Samit Patel Age: 26. Uncapped in Tests for England.
He lost a stone and a half in pre-season and offers the added benefit of left-arm spin. Already returned to England colours in Twenty20 cricket.Reuse content