England v Sri Lanka, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong March 26, 2014

Bopara intent on clearing the ropes


England go into their second match of the Super 10s in a position where defeat could effectively spell the end of their World T20 campaign after little more than a week in Bangladesh. They face Sri Lanka, ranked No. 1 in the format and on the back of two wins from two; England, meanwhile, have won two of their last eight T20s. The good news is that Ravi Bopara has been dreaming of hitting sixes.

Bopara may eventually command a place in the order higher than his current station at No.6 - it would likely have been seven had Joe Root not suffered a broken thumb in the Caribbean - but he has gamely adapted to the role of a gun-slinging six-shooter coming in below Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler. He knows that the pressure to start clearing the ropes is almost immediate, even against as fiendish a late-innings bowler as Lasith Malinga.

"Obviously you have to hit sixes in T20 cricket to push the run-rates up. I can only speak for myself but I do need to practise hitting the balls over the ropes," he said. "I'm going to face roughly between 10-20 balls, at most, batting at number six, so I really need to be ready to hit a six after my third or fourth ball."

What about needing to hit a six off the first ball? Off Malinga? Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka's captain, almost creased up at the idea, saying he had never seen it done. "I can't hit a six against Malinga," he said.

Bopara has only been dismissed by Malinga twice in 13 encounters, both on England's tour of Sri Lanka in 2007, although that is not necessarily proof of mastery. Just hitting Malinga is what some batsmen dream of - ask Netherlands - and Bopara said that his match strategy may involve resorting to something a little smarter.

"I have been lying in my bed at times and thought: why don't I just hit the first ball for six?" he said. "Because more often than not, the bowler just wants to land it on a length and hopefully get a dot. So it's probably the best ball to hit out of the park. Yeah, I have thought about it.

I have been lying in my bed at times and thought: why don't I just hit the first ball for six?
Ravi Bopara

"It is tough to hit someone like Malinga out of the park consistently, which is why he's probably the best in the world. The best way to approach Malinga is to try to deflect him, past the gaps behind point, hopefully get bat on it behind square, that sort of stuff. That is the best way to approach him, because he does have a very, very good slower ball and if you're looking to have a big swing at him, that slower ball can do you as well. Personally, I'd try to deflect him."

England's sketchy recent form with the bat comprises several factors, not least being injury-enforced changes to personnel. Michael Lumb and Alex Hales, one of the most successful opening partnerships in the game, have only twice produced significant stands since August - 111 at Chester-le-Street and 98 at Bridgetown - and both times England have won.

Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, appears to have struggled with the extra demands being made of him as England's marquee short-form player. His average dipped below 30 for the first time since his second T20 international innings, earlier this month and a careworn 12 from 15 balls on Saturday maintained the slump. He seems more at ease in the finisher role he performed at the start of his career and tellingly averages 19.00 at No. 4 compared to 45.84 at No. 5.

With Moeen Ali showing an apparent flair for batting at three against New Zealand (soft dismissal notwithstanding), perhaps Bopara, who showed his affinity for this part of the world by finishing as top-scorer in last year's Dhaka Premier League, could provide a solution.

"I'd love to bat a little higher, but that's not my decision," he said. "The conditions in the Dhaka Premier League were slightly different. We didn't play any of the games in the night. They were slightly drier and lower wickets, but in terms of batting up the order, yes, I'd love to bat higher up but that's not my decision, and that's probably not my role in the team."

Stuart Broad talked before England's opening game about the need for continuity of selection and players to know their roles. Bopara seems to know his and, following a nomadic international career that has involved more comebacks and reinventions than the line-up of The Fall, it may serve current purposes to keep things that way. Hit sixes, win the match, nothing more complicated than that.

"It is a must-win game for us. I don't think we know the mathematical side of it - we have to win. Winning against Sri Lanka would be a big thing for us, a big confidence boost and that's how we're looking at it."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Soy on March 28, 2014, 4:04 GMT

    @CodandChips - not one other team in the world has such a lineup, so it is obviously a sore point. I did not directly imply nor deny that there are other factors at play. KP never got into the English way of playing (read: boring and predictable), but the others probably will.

    But this sore point is, and rightly so, a sensitive issue for English fans, your reaction to the issue (confirmed by you responding twice) underlines this fact unarguably.

    It is, again rightly, the cause of mock and alarm for other countries when they assess an English cricket lineup. It is what it is. It's not naive to point out the fact that, at times, more than half the team was born elsewhere - you can't be naive for pointing out facts.

    I'm pleased this England/Ireland/South African mish-mash won last night as I had a multi-bet on them winning.

    What they really need is a spinner, so I'd recommend appointing a panel that scours Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan for talent whereby the talent has a UK p'port.

  • ADARSH on March 27, 2014, 15:54 GMT

    Dhoni, Kohli, Raina hit Malinga for sixes. Indians know how to tackle Malinga than any other teams. Even Malinga said its hard to bowl to Dhoni and Kohli.

  • Mohammed on March 27, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    I'm predicting a 5 wicket win for England.

  • Tania on March 27, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    SL has been lucky with toss ,they will be pulverized if they bowl second as their mediocre bowlers will be found wanting

  • Koshala on March 27, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    @mohammed-ismail, SL getting through to the semis by FLUKE, get real brother. By far Sri Lanka is much better than most of these teams and they have shown it again and again. We play as a team and don't just hope for someone to come in and go Boom Boom to with his eyes closed to win a match. So Pakistan beating SL, well think again dude. If i could recall correctly recently we have shown Pakistan a thing or two in how to play cricket correctly and win. I am sure that you are still hurt with the Asia Cup defeat, well get ready for another.

  • Nadda on March 27, 2014, 9:06 GMT


    If SL win the cup this time, will you still think that 'Inshaallah' thingy helps you or your team?

    No, Its Hardwork that matters and Sri Lankans are hard workers, period.

  • Kanishka on March 27, 2014, 8:59 GMT

    well mr mohammed-ismail it is not SL that need a reality check it is ur team PAK got thrashed by IND and lost twice to SL in the asia cup nearly lost to AUS after scoring 190 odd I won't be surprised if the Windies give u a hiding!!!!!

  • Mohammed on March 27, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    Today England is going to win and give these arrogant SL fans a reality check. At present SL is simply an overrated team. Inshallah, England will thrash Srilanka today & next NZ will also win against SL. If somehow by FLUKE SL enter semis, then Pakistan will thrash SL. This is going to happen Inshaallah.

  • Paulo on March 27, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    @SoyQuearns continuing on, you mention New Zealand so are referring to Stokes. So the fact he's lived here since 12, and as a result has become a geordie not good enough? Listen to his accent, look at his behavior. Also how much of his cricket would he have learnt in primary school? Arguably he has more right to choose England than choose NewZealand.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 6:58 GMT

    srilankan players are hard worker and knows the value of team work .England does not have their combination right .perry should be in team .bopara and moeen ali in top 3. . they can drop hales as he is not in his touch.or put bell as an opener with ali at no. 3 and bopara on4 .followed by morgan,buttler ,stokes..

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