Red hot Bopara key to Essex T20 hopes

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The Independent Online

Ravi Bopara may have cursed his omission from the England Test squad but he was probably the only man in Essex who did. The county face Lancashire this evening in Friends' Provident Twenty20 quarter-final and their chances of reaching Finals Day are much the better for Bopara's presence.

The game at Chelmsford is sold out in anticipation, no doubt, of victory for the home side. Essex coach Paul Grayson is well aware that having Bopara is a huge bonus for Essex. "He's a class player and in the form of his life at the moment," he said. "It's great for us that he's with us, although frustrating for him because he deserves to be with the England Test squad."

Essex have been in good form of late, with Bopara, who hit a fine half-century in Essex's win over Northamptonshire in 40-over cricket on Sunday, to the fore. The home side will, however, be without a number of their first team players: Alastair Cook and Danish Kaneria are on Test duty, while Scott Styris has gone back to New Zealand. Grayson is nonetheless confident.

"Both Lancashire and ourselves are very good one-day sides and we know that we are going to have to bowl well on Tuesday, particularly in the power play overs because we know that Lancashire will come at us hard in those first six overs," he said.

"It's about continuing to play the way we do. We've done the basics so well in the last few weeks and that's why we're winning matches. The outcome could depend on whichever side holds their nerve the best and when you hold your nerve, you tend to produce your skills better.

"If we can do that, then I have every belief that we will win the match and go through to Finals Day."

Today's other quarter-final sees Somerset welcome Northants to Taunton, which should also be sold out. Both sides reached the final four last year, and both sides were beaten by Sussex. Somerset's former England opener Marcus Trescothick is keen to do better this year.

"Every match seems to be must-win at the moment, but that only reflects the good season we are having," he said. "But it won't mean anything if we don't win a trophy."