BCA President's XI v England XI, Barbados, 1st day February 22, 2009

Jet-lagged Bopara stakes his claim

BCA President's XI 49 for 4 trail England XI 351 for 8 (Bopara 124, Ambrose 74, Strauss 66 ret, Stoute 4-67) by 302 runs
Scorecard


Ravi Bopara hammers a leg-side four on his way to his hundred © Getty Images
 
Ravi Bopara and Amjad Khan shook off the effects of jet-lag as England enjoyed a productive day's work against a Barbados Cricket Association President's XI at Windward Park. Bopara readied himself for a recall with 124, while Amjad claimed two late wickets. The pair were called up as cover for Andrew Flintoff and only arrived here on Saturday afternoon after completing a marathon 24-hour journey from New Zealand.

The form of Bopara and Ambrose is a boost for the selectors who face a difficult few days ahead of the must-win Test at the Kensington Oval. Bopara could be slotted straight into the Test side at No. 6 as a replacement for Flintoff depending on the balance England opt for. If they decide on an extra bowler, then Amjad and Ryan Sidebottom are probably fighting it out for the final spot. Amjad made a promising start with two wickets after Andrew Strauss declared to give his bowlers 13 overs, although the quality of the opposition has to be taken into account.

Tim Ambrose also gave the selectors a boost with a timely 74 to ready himself in case of a rushed return to the Test side. He is on standby to replace Matt Prior should Prior's wife, Emily, go into labour early. Prior is already scheduled to fly home on March 2, and will miss the final Test in Trinidad, but will leave the tour early if the baby arrives before Thursday.

Bopara's hundred wasn't made against the toughest of opponents and his biggest challenge was staying awake after crossing six time zones, and the International Date Line in the course of his trek from Christchurch to Barbados via Auckland, Los Angeles and Miami - a trip of 41 hours in real time. Add to that his journey from England to New Zealand last week and it's a wonder he knew where or when it was.

"I was called into David Parson's room [the England Lions coach] and thought I was in trouble," Bopara said. "It reminded me of the headmaster at school, but then he told me Fred had picked up an injury and I was needed in New Zealand with Amjad. I looked at my phone this morning and saw it was Sunday, but had no idea what day it was when I was in LA or Miami."

He wasn't overly taxed by the home side and moved steadily through the gears during his innings, expanding his strokeplay after tea when he took 20 off an over from 17-year-old Jason Holder, although he had been given a life on 23 when he was dropped at deep midwicket. He moved to 95 with three fours in a row off Corey Edwards and the hundred arrived from 105 balls - his second fifty taking 34 balls - with a glide through third man.

Ambrose has done plenty of drink carrying this winter, but not much else apart from a short stint behind the stumps in the opening warm-up game against a St Kitts Invitational XI. This was his first innings in an England shirt since the final Test against South Africa, at The Oval, in September but made the most of an enthusiastic but extremely inexperienced bowling attack which fed his favourite cut shot.

His fifty came off 74 balls and it appeared he would be the first to reach three figures. However, he spooned a catch to midwicket and it was Bopara who collected the hundred after unleashing an array of shots during the final session.

The BCA XI consisted mainly of teenagers and they struggled for consistency. However, Holder, who stands at six foot seven and is known as 'Little Big Bird' for his resemblance to Joel Garner, claimed both wickets to fall before lunch. He had Alastair Cook caught at mid-on off a loose chip shot then benefited from a superbly taken catch at long leg to remove Owais Shah for 4.

Strauss dominated the morning-session scoring, continuing his impressive form from the third Test with a positive 66. However, he was offered a life on 19 when he top-edged a hook only to watch the wicketkeeper drop the chance as he and three slips converged.

Ian Bell had the chance to find some form in case he is called into replace Flintoff, but after stroking his way to 44 he edged a loose drive low to gully off Kevin Stoute, who then removed Matt Prior for a third-ball duck. Those who had missed out then had to watch as Ambrose and Bopara showed what easy runs were on offer, but nobody is really any the wiser about what the Test XI will look like.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo