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Natwest T20 Blast: Ravi Bopara hopes history repeats itself for Essex ahead of Hampshire clash

PUBLISHED: 12:30 21 July 2017

Essex's Ravi Bopara hits out during the NatWest T20 Blast match against Surrey (Pic Simon Cooper/PA)

Essex's Ravi Bopara hits out during the NatWest T20 Blast match against Surrey (Pic Simon Cooper/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Essex have lost four of first five games, like they did last year before improving to make knockout stages

Essex have been in this position before in the NatWest T20 Blast. A year ago they lost four of their first five fixtures going into a home match against Hampshire; they won it and built up a head of steam that helped them qualify for the knockout stages.

Hampshire are back in Chelmsford tonight with Essex having won just one of five matches this season. In-form Ravi Bopara hopes lightning strikes again, though he is not as quick as some to label the latest game under lights as must-win.

“It is a little bit,” he admits. “But if you look at the numbers it is not must-win. Even if we lost every game up to six games to go, and then won every game in the last six, we should still go through.

“But in terms of morale and belief, it is a must-win game. It will mean a lot to the boys if we beat Hampshire. It’s all about confidence.”

Essex have lost three of those five games from winning positions, the most recent being on Wednesday night at the Oval when they fell 10 runs short chasing just 151 to beat a Kevin Pietersen-inspired Surrey.

“We weren’t good enough and we haven’t been good enough so far in the competition,” says Bopara. “I wouldn’t say we are the strongest or most skilful T20 outfit compared to a lot of teams this year.

“A lot of teams have moved on with their game, and we are slightly playing catch-up. But that happens. Having said that, our four-day game has gone through the roof. It’s difficult to be like that in every format; possible, but very, very difficult.

“We just haven’t nailed it in T20. We’re not really concerned; it’s not really impacted in the dressing room because, if I’m being brutally honest, I would say a lot of the lads have got their eyes set on a Championship win more than anything. The lads are not too concerned or too down and up against each other and stuff like that; we’re in a good place.”

Not that Bopara has given up on the short format. “We’re by no means out of it. It hasn’t helped that we haven’t had a second overseas player. That whole debacle of what happened with Tamim [Iqbal] has really affected the balance of the side. I also feel we’re a bowler short at the moment. We’ve still got very young and inexperienced players having to play big roles, and it’s a lot to ask from them.”

Bopara was captain of the side who won six of their last nine T20 games in 2016 – with one abandoned – before losing in the quarter-final to Nottinghamshire. He stood down at the end of the season, and says now: “It made me a little too responsible in a way. I think I play my best cricket when I’m a bit more carefree.

“I’d like to go back to it at some point in the future because I’ve learnt from it, and I think I’d be in a better position to do the captaincy in terms of my own game. But I’m enjoying life right now, things are really good.”

Bopara is Essex’s leading run-scorer in T20 cricket with 231 runs and has rediscovered his mojo with a bat in his hands.

“I went through a period in the last 12-18 months where I got a little stale. I was trying other things in my game which I personally think didn’t work for me. I tried to be a technician in an attempt to become a better batsman. I gave myself enough time to do it, but I’ve come out the other side knowing that my natural way is the best way. I’ve decided to go back to just being natural; natural and a bit more aggressive.”

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