Ravi Bopara is determined to grab his chance at the Ageas Bowl – and avoid a long walk of shame.
The Essex all-rounder is expected to bat at number four as England begin their 50-over NatWest Series against West Indies at the Hampshire venue tomorrow (10.45am).
Having battled back from injury – which ruled him out of the recent Test series – he is determined to nail down the middle-order spot.
Following the limited overs retirement of former Hampshire batsman Kevin Pietersen, the Three Lions will be looking for the remaining men to step up.
And Bopara is confident he can do the job – admitting the thought of failure at the south-coast venue, which staged its first-ever Test match when Sri Lanka toured last summer, is a painful one.
‘It is a long way down to the ground from the changing rooms,’ said the 27-year-old right-hander.
‘It is a long way for a nought!
‘It’s a good track. It comes on nicely and is one of the quicker tracks. It will suit us and I’m really looking forward to it.
‘I haven’t played a lot of cricket for England recently because of injuries.
‘So it’s exciting for me and I’m in good form.’
Bopara, who has played 72 one-day internationals and 12 Tests, notched a match-winning century for Essex against Gloucestershire on his return to first-team action in the Clydesdale Bank 40 earlier this month.
And he followed it up with 174 in the County Championship division two battle with Northamptonshire later that week.
Those knocks provided welcome relief from a depressing spell on the sidelines – and put him bang in form for the first game of the three-match series.
‘It’s very frustrating,’ said Bopara, as he reflected on the quad tear which ruled him out of the three-match Test series against the Caribbean outfit.
‘It’s only recently I’ve started to get a few injuries.
‘Before that, I very rarely missed games.
‘It’s probably a sign of me getting old!
‘It is annoying, it is frustrating but whatever’s meant to be is meant to be.
‘I guess what it does is it gives someone else an opportunity to cement their place.
‘That’s not ideal for me but it means when I get my opportunity, I’ve got to take it.
‘Let’s hope I get it soon. I want to play for England, every opportunity I get.
‘I have missed a lot of cricket. I’ve done a lot of 12th man, I know that for sure. I just want to get in and cement my place.’
Master-blaster Chris Gayle is set to end more than 14 months in exile and return to the West Indies ranks tomorrow.
Following another successful stint in the Indian Premier League, he will spearhead the tourists’ batting line-up.
However, Bopara challenged him to prove his worth in tricky English conditions.
‘Gayle is a danger man,’ he said.
‘Whether he’s as dangerous in these conditions, we’ll have to find out. Wait and see.’
England (from): Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott,
Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Craig Kieswetter, Samit Patel, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn