Century a reward for unselfish Chopra as Essex head into crucial back-to-back clashes with Sussex and Middlesex
- Credit: PA
Varun Chopra is the very model of a team player: the erstwhile opener has slotted uncomplainingly into the No.4 batting berth in the first half of Essex’s Royal London Cup campaign, and his adaptability has been rewarded with his first century since returning to the county.
Not only was Chopra’s enterprising knock in Cardiff his first three-figure score for more than a year – since hitting 107 in the Specsavers County Championship against Yorkshire last April before it all went sour for him at Warwickshire – the 124 against Glamorgan was also his highest total in one-day cricket.
Unfortunately it was not enough to prevent Essex slipping to their first defeat of the season, albeit by one run. They now have the opportunity to revive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the 50-over competition with back-to-back, day-night matches at Chelmsford against Sussex tomorrow and Middlesex on Friday.
The 29-year-old Chopra says: “It’s a long season and we’re not going to go unbeaten the whole year. We were on the wrong side of things on Sunday, which was a shame, but we’ve got a big chance now with two home games. It is important we show some character and bounce back.”
The former Warwickshire captain has shown the requisite character by overcoming the disappointment of being the opener omitted from the Championship side to accommodate England’s record run-scorer Alastair Cook, and has bounced back with valuable contributions lower down the order in white-ball cricket.
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“I’ll go in where the team needs me to bat,” he says.
“I feel like I’m experienced enough and adaptable in my game. So I don’t mind coming in against spin, or if we’re two for two like we were on Sunday. It’s an exciting new role for me. It’s a challenge and one I look forward to. Wherever the team needs me to bat, whatever the team needs me to do at that particular time, I’m confident I can do it.”
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In fact, it was almost like being an opener again when he went in to join Cook just nine balls into Essex’s latest innings. The pair put on 104 for the third wicket following a stand of 99 together in the win over Gloucestershire on Thursday – though there were already 101 runs on the board by the time Chopra reached the wicket then.
“I guess it was like opening against Glamorgan in terms of the bowlers still being fresh and the ball still new and hard,” Chopra admitted.
“But it is a very different mentality going in at two for two rather than none for none. The bowlers are charged up and the momentum is with them. On Sunday it was important we counter-punched for a bit, just to try and get a bit of the initiative back. I’m just disappointed that in our last 10 overs we didn’t quite see it home.”
With Nick Browne struggling for runs so far, it may not be long before Chopra returns to the top of the order.
He says: “We are a tight squad here. We all know that we’ve got a strong batting line-up and at times two batters are going to be left out. That is the nature of our squad. The main thing is that we’re all pulling in the same direction.
“Competition is never a bad thing in cricket. I’m happy with it. If it’s my time, or someone else’s, we have to make the most of it.”