Ravi Bopara: Essex T20 Blast clash with Hampshire ‘not a must-win’

Essex's Ravi Bopara in action. Picture: PA SPORT

Essex's Ravi Bopara in action. Picture: PA SPORT - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Essex star Ravi Bopara has resisted the urge to label tomorrow night’s Natwest T20 Blast clash with Hampshire a must-win – but admits it’s pretty close.

A year ago his squad 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.

Now Hampshire are back in Chelmsford tonight with Essex having won just one of five matches this season.

But asked if the match was a must-win, Bopara said: “It is a little bit. 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.

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“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.

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“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. He said: “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, who left Essex after just one game) has really affected the balance of the side. We’ve still got very young and inexperienced players having to play big roles, and it’s a lot to ask.”

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