Runs or rupees? Ravi Bopara revealed yesterday he would rather be making the former for Essex than the latter in the Indian Premier League after he turned down a hefty pay packet from the Twenty20 jamboree on the subcontinent to concentrate on regaining his England place.
Essex permitting, Bopara could have earned a six-figure sum for a brief stint in India but such is his form – 341 runs in three Championship innings and six wickets at 18 – he hopes he has caught the selectors' attention. "When figures like these are put in front of you it's tempting," Bopara, 23, said, "but my goal is to play regularly for England so I'm confident that if I score runs and take wickets for Essex then I will this summer and for years to come. If I do, and with the talk of new competitions to sit alongside the IPL, then I'm sure there will be opportunities to enjoy the financial benefits in years to come."
Bopara is a member of the one-day set-up but was dropped from the Test side after a lean run in Sri Lanka last year. "I'm playing well and with a Test series coming up [against New Zealand] if there was an injury to our batting line-up I'd like to think I'd be next in line," he added. Bopara will have a chance to further his cause when he plays for the England Lions tomorrow against New Zealand at the Rose Bowl.
Other players looking to impress the powers-that-be ahead of Sunday's first Test squad announcement will be in action today in the Championship. Andrew Flintoff will be aiming to prove his fitness as Lancashire host Durham for whom Paul Collingwood and Steve Harmison are available. Bowler Graham Onions is with the Lions so Steve's brother Ben comes into the squad. Pakistan batsman Mohammad Yousuf is set to make his debut for Lancashire.
Kevin Pietersen should play for Hampshire against Somerset at Taunton but they are missing three key bowlers in Shane Bond, Chris Tremlett and Dimitri Mascarenhas, who was tempted by the IPL.
Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad, who could be vying for one England slot next week, lead Nottinghamshire's attack at Canterbury against Kent, who are without Rob Key, another Lion.
In the Second Division, Derbyshire meet Warwickshire at Derby and Essex host Andrew Strauss' Middlesex at Chelmsford.