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February 23, 2009
Ravi Bopara has said he struggled to stay awake during the opening day of England's tour match against Barbados Cricket Association President's XI, but is ready to return to Test cricket if recalled for the fourth Test on Thursday after hitting an attacking 124.
Bopara only arrived in the Caribbean on Saturday afternoon from New Zealand and less than 24 hours later was out in the middle at Windward Park trying to impress the management as they weighed up their options for replacing the injured Andrew Flintoff. "I woke up at about 3am and didn't get back to sleep," he said. "I got a bit sleepy at the start of the game, but the physio told me to stay awake and sleep later tonight.
"Andy [Flower] came in last night to have a chat with me and said you are going to be playing tomorrow and that it doesn't give you much time to prepare," he added. "But I guess you just have to shrug those things off. I had no choice, and really I went in today and didn't think too much and just tried to enjoy myself."
Bopara hopes to have fully shaken off the effects of his 41-hour journey, taking in four flights and an eight-hour stop in Los Angeles, well before the Test begins. "I'd have no choice. I'm a little on my way already because I didn't sleep so that would have helped," he said. "When I go back I'll have my food and hopefully nod off at around 10 o'clock and wake up around seven."
He is aiming to earn his fourth Test cap after being dropped following his debut series in Sri Lanka in 2007-08 where he managed just 42 runs in five innings. Since then he has struggled to maintain a regular place in the one-day team, but handsome performances for Essex have kept him in the frame. He was in the squad for The Oval Test against South Africa before being overlooked for the Test series in India and the West Indies.
"Getting the hundred today gives me a massive boost and an opportunity," he said. "I wouldn't say I've been frustrated. The way Sri Lanka went I was going to have to work hard to get my place back. I've been looking for the opportunity, but I wasn't just going to get it because of the players that are about these days. I'm glad because the best way to do it is to work hard and when I do get the chance I will take it."
Bopara's recall depends on the type of side England opt for in Bridgetown. If Matt Prior isn't called away to attend to his pregnant wife then he could bat at No. 6 ahead of five frontline bowlers. In that case the seamer Amjad Khan, who also flew in from New Zealand (leaving the England Lions squad), could benefit with his first Test cap.
Bopara joked that after spending so much time sitting next to other, they needed some space. "I was so bored of him after a while," he said. "Picking up a couple of (late) wickets went down really well as he's a close mate of mine." After 41 hours in the air they must be really close.