County round-up: Stylish Bopara improves England hopes

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The Independent Online

Ravi Bopara, so the consensus has it, is in a straight shootout with Eoin Morgan for a place in England's middle order. And while Morgan is firing blanks out in India, where he's represented the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, Bopara – who decided not to play in the Twenty20 jamboree – has been scoring plenty of Second-Division runs for Essex in the County Championship.

Yesterday he hit 119, his second century of the season, as his side fought back against Derbyshire at Derby. The 26-year-old, playing on the ground where an England Lions side – featuring Bopara and Morgan – face Sri Lanka next week, looked in fine fettle, driving freely and lofting a single six off off-spinner Azeem Rafiq. After a late slump, Essex were 173 runs ahead with four wickets standing at stumps. Derbyshire, meanwhile, announced before the start of play that John Morris, their director of cricket, and his assistant, Andy Brown, had lost their jobs.

Elsewhere, stand-in Surrey captain Kevin Pietersen is facing a humiliating defeat against Cambridge MCCU, who hit 455 in their first innings. Pietersen was at the crease at the close on 22, with Surrey still 170 runs behind the students with eight wickets standing.