Bopara: Essex ‘always behind’ in disastrous T20 season
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As Essex wind up what looks certain to be their worst T20 campaign in the 16-season history of the competition, Ravi Bopara admits the Eagles were underprepared from the start, writes Martin Smith.
Essex have managed a solitary win in their dozen Vitality Blast games to date, and have just tomorrow night’s fixture at Lord’s against fellow back-markers Middlesex (6.15pm), and Kent’s high-flying Spitfires at Chelmsford on Friday (6.30pm), to improve that record.
The Eagles’ previous lowest number of victories in a season is two, and that in both the first two years when they only played five group games.
Since the short-format programme increased to 10 and beyond from 2008, Essex have always won at least five qualifying games, and in a good year as many as 10.
This year’s tally of six points, which keeps them off the bottom of the southern division from equally-woeful Middlesex and Hampshire, is bulked out by three no-results and a tie.
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From the opening game it has looked as if Essex had no discernible plan, and the T20 season had caught them on the hop. “It was a bit like that,” says Bopara.
“It happens a little bit just after you’ve won the Championship. You start giving a lot of thought to red-ball cricket, naturally, because you’ve just won the league and you want to defend your title.
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“Your focus is red-ball cricket during the winter, how you can improve and win the league again, back to back. You can almost forget about white-ball a little bit and not pay it that much attention.
“It crept up on us and the campaign shows we were a little bit behind.
“We’ve been below-par throughout. Hopefully we can pick it up next year. I back the guys to come out better. We’re going to hopefully focus a lot more on white-ball cricket during the winter, spend more time on it; that would be good for us.”
Assuming he plays these final two matches, Bopara will reach 300 career T20 appearances at Chelmsford. The former England all-rounder, now 33, also needs just one wicket for 200 and 63 runs for 6,000.
Essex return to Championship action at Somerset on Sunday.