Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bopara into record books with double ton

Essex 350 for 5 (Bopara 201*, Foster 61) beat Leicestershire 232 (Nixon 62, Boyce 57) by 118 runs

Young English talent overcame imported South Africans as Ravi Bopara etched his name in the record books at Grace Road, with a breathtaking 201 off 138 balls, to guide Essex into the Friends Provident semi-finals. Bopara's stunning innings lifted Essex to a mammoth 350, which proved well out of reach for Leicestershire.

It was the highest score by an Essex batsman in one-day cricket, beating Graham Gooch's 198 against Sussex in 1982, which came in a 55-over game, and only the eighth double century in List A cricket. He added 190 with James Foster after the top order had been trouble at 37 for 3 against the new ball.

This innings came in front of Geoff Miller, the national selector, and Bopara has done everything the England hierarchy have asked of him since a disappointing winter where he was dropped from the Test and one-day teams. He is back in the one-day squad for the series against New Zealand, and his form means he must be next in line should the selectors decide changes are needed to the Test team.

Bopara was in charge throughout his innings, reaching his double century with a six over long-on, his tenth, off the penultimate ball of the innings. The breakdown of his innings shows how he pressed the accelerator in dramatic style during the closing stages.

His first century took 85 balls, remarkable in itself given Essex were tottering when he came in, but his second arrived off a blistering 52 balls. His final fifty was even more destructive, taking just 16 deliveries as Leicestershire's attack was sent to the cleaners.

Leicestershire found themselves in similar trouble to Essex at 53 for 3, following two early wickets for Alex Tudor, but no one was able to come near matching the heroics of Bopara. Matthew Boyce and Paul Nixon added 104 to keep their heads just above water until David Masters, against his former club, had Boyce caught behind off a top edge.

Nixon followed five runs later, bowled by James Middlebrook, and Bopara capped a memorable day with two late wickets in two balls. The only surprise, given his earlier success, was that he didn't finish with a hat-trick.

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