Somerset v Warwickshire, Taunton, 3rd day August 17, 2014

Chopra restates England case

Tim Wigmore at Taunton

Somerset 286 and 1 for 0 require a further 403 runs to beat Warwickshire 367 and 322 for 7 dec. (Chopra 117*, Clarke 83)

Varun Chopra might easily be vying to replace Sam Robson opening the batting for England. He is among the most consistent openers in Division One, topping 1000 first-class runs in each of the last three seasons. They have been attractive runs, too: sumptuous off drives and languid flicks off his legs.

As recently as February, Chopra was playing alongside Robson for the England Lions in Sri Lanka. While Robson has been given an opportunity in Test cricket, Chopra has endured a miserable 2014 in whites. After a loose drive to the fourth ball of the game, his Championship average for the season slumped to 20.

All of which made his first first-class century of the season particularly commendable. During the morning session, Somerset bowled with parsimony and vim, generating significant movement beneath the clouds. It was enough to account for Ian Westwood, Will Porterfield and, most significantly, Jonathan Trott, who nicked an outswinger from Peter Trego behind after a series of inswingers. At 40 for 3, leading by only 121, Warwickshire were perilously placed. "It's tough out there," Dougie Brown opined.

But Chopra was displaying admirable resolve. The conditions, and quality of the bowling, dictated that he eschew eye-catching strokes. Playing stoutly forward to negate the movement, and leaving whenever he could, he mustered only two from his first 42 balls.

It has been a characteristic of this match that batting has become drastically easier as the ball has got older. And so it proved once more. Tim Ambrose was in pugnacious mood in his 54, cutting with characteristic venom. Rikki Clarke was even more aggressive, bludgeoning anything short from George Dockrell to the boundary and playing some crunching lofted drives off the seamers in the evening sun, which had finally won its battle with the clouds just as Somerset were losing theirs.

Chopra could not have wished for a better ground to regain his form. He scored 210 in Warwickshire's win at Taunton three years ago and, amazingly, has now scored more hundreds - three - in seven games at this ground than at Chelmsford and Edgbaston - the two home grounds in his career - in a total of 56 matches.

Though this was an unusually slow Chopra innings, it still contained glimpses of his attacking verve. Judging length early and rocking back decisively, he dispatched anything short as if affronted that any bowler would try and get him out in such a way. Consecutive pulled fours from Craig Overton brought his fifty; a similar shot off Lewis Gregory, brought him his century. It was the cause of great cheer among the vociferous Warwickshire contingent.

This could turn out to be a very significant week in Chopra's career. In six days time, he will have the chance to lead Warwickshire to the NatWest Blast trophy at Edgbaston. Chopra, whose limited overs form has been excellent in spite of his woes against the red ball - he averages 42.90 in the Blast and 104.66 in the Royal London One Day Cup - will be boosted by the return of Ian Bell, who has been declared available for Finals Day.

For all his fortitude, Chopra would not have reached a century without considerable fortune. He was badly spilled by Alfonso Thomas off Lewis Gregory at square leg when he had made 84. More crucially, Dockrell spilled a facile chance at midwicket off Johan Myburgh when Clarke had 1. Had that been taken, Warwickshire would have led by 171 for 6, leading by 252; chasing a target of 300, Somerset might have been marginal favourites. They will reflect on how different the match would be had they not spilt eight catches in the game.

After a day of profuse early promise, Somerset must have found the evening onslaught particularly deflating; some of the side's body language hinted at as much. In the circumstances, the prospect of facing four overs before the close cannot have done much for Marcus Trescothick's mood.

A target of 404 in 100 overs displayed admirable intent from Chopra, realising that a draw is of scant help to Warwickshire's lingering title aspirations. Given that they intend to spin their way to victory, the sight of Jeetan Patel ripping the new ball past Trescothick's groping bat felt a little ominous for home supporters.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on August 18, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    Let's not give up on Dockrell yet. It's easy to forget, with all his experience, that's he only 22. And it can't help when he gets summarily dropped from the one-day team, despite his tremendous record across 39 ODIs. His first class record still compares very favourably with most spinners in the country, so let's show some faith.

    Funny how Chopra's form has turned around so spectacularly across all formats. If Warwicks had any of Woakes, Barker, Rankin or Wright available they'd have a great shot at the title, as they are the only contender with a high-class frontline spinner. I know Yorkshire have been without a few players too, but not their best 4 seamers!

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2014, 8:36 GMT

    @ydoethur - Thanks, Chopra was yesterday confirmed as T20 captain for finals day

  • Huw on August 18, 2014, 5:37 GMT

    'In six days time, he will have the chance to lead Warwickshire to the NatWest Blast trophy at Edgbaston. Chopra...will be boosted by the return of Ian Bell, who has been declared available for Finals Day.'

    If Bell is playing, won't he be captaining as Jim Troughton's official deputy? Or have Warwickshire confirmed Chopra ahead of him in the pecking order?

    Otherwise, thanks for a good article. Chopra should certainly be considered for an England opening berth if he scores runs late season - he's too consistent to ignore.

  • Matthew on August 17, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    This has been an embarrassing performance with bat ball& most of all in the field where over 2 innings we have dropped 8 catches& you cant expect to win a game when you drop 8 catches. Changes need to be made for the Northants game Groenewald has to come in for Trego who's bowling is awful at least one ball an over nearly always goes for 4& he doesnt contribute enough when needed with the bat. Leach has to come in for Dockrell who has bowled poorly for two years, he hasn't beat the bat or looked like taking a wicket in either innings of this match. Myburgh looked much more threatening& took 1 wicket which would have been 2 if Dockrell could catch. Also if Hildy continues his terrible form tomorrow then he will have to be dropped for Petersen. Abell has lead the way for us in this game both with the bat & in the field if the rest of our team had shown the application that he did batting & fielded like him then we would probably be looking at a win here.Barrow kept very well again today.

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2014, 19:42 GMT

    Why is the word "facile" so consistently misused on espncricinfo, even by apparently native English speakers, as though it were a synonym of "easy" (see above reference to an easy catch as a 'facile catch')? Journalists, of all people, really ought to know the meaning and correct use of the words they employ. You must have a dictionary. Use it.

  • Robert on August 17, 2014, 19:08 GMT

    >>"A target of 404 in 100 overs displayed admirable intent from Chopra, realising that a draw is of scant help to Warwickshire's lingering title aspirations."<<

    That baffles me. It seemed he was concerned only to avoid losing. If rain comes in and Somerset hang on for a draw, the skipper will have to accept the blame. Just baffled they didn't have 10 overs at them before close.

  • Dummy4 on August 17, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Decent bat, but poor fielder.

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