Bopara given the platform after Bell double hundred
Lunch: Fourth Test, day three, The Oval
Match score: England 591-6 (Bopara 44*, Prior 18*, Bell 235, Pietersen 175; Sreesanth 3-123) Full scorecard
Session score: England 134-3 England win
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth hails from Kerala in the deep south of India, an increasingly fashionable holiday destination where, unusually for India, the sporting passion is football than cricket.
This seems appropriate for the fast bowler who, professionally at least, lives by a solitary name, like a Brazilian footballer, and whose onfield histrionics would fit in perfectly alongside the bib-bungling Balotelli on the Manchester City training ground.
Three years ago after an IPL game he was slapped in the face by Harbhajan Singh, a contest where it was almost impossible to take sides. Like the Iran-Iraq war or Germany v USA at football, you want both to lose.
With Harbhajan having gone home for a lie down, Sreesanth fulfils the role of pantomime villain. While Gentleman Rahul Dravid politely applauded Ian Bell’s maiden Test double hundred, Sreesanth was busy chirping at Jimmy Anderson.
When he dismissed the nightwatchman, he stood proudly with his arms folded, Cantona-like, and turned his head slowly to catch Anderson’s eye as the batsman walked passed on his way to the pavilion. Sreesanth just stared silently but Anderson had something to say, as he tends to these days, emboldened by his world-class status.
The temptation is to mock Sreesanth and certainly if you’re going to behave like Dominic Cork’s long-lost Asian cousin then you’d better be able to back it up with performance. To a limited extent Sreesanth has done that in this Test. He got Eoin Morgan caught at second slip by bowling from a wider angle, a smart piece of bowling.
But it would be a dull game without a modest dose of theatrical antagonism. Expect more of the same if Anderson gets the chance to bowl at Sreesanth at some point tomorrow.
Morgan’s departure could not have been better timed for Ravi Bopara whose dreams must be perpetually populated by images of a man sitting with his pads on waiting to bat. Coming in late yesterday would have been a dreadful unwinnable trial for him but he emerged this morning with plenty of time to build a substantial innings.
And apart from the inevitable near run-out, he looked calm and confident. He should have been run out five minutes before lunch when he played Amit Mishra to backward point. Matt Prior set off from the non-striker’s end while Bopara, a skittish runner at the best of times, was slow to react but Virender Sehwag’s throw was not gather cleanly by the sprawling Mishra and Bopara survived.
The afternoon could be his, though the rain that started during the lunch interval may yet thwart his claims for recognition.
Morgan will captain England’s one-day side next Thursday in Ireland. The team contains a number of uncapped players including Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow, Durham legspinner Scott Borthwick and also Durham, the big-hitting allrounder Ben Stokes. Jonathan Trott, who has missed the last two Tests with a shoulder injury, is also named in the squad. Richard Halsall, England’s fielding coach, will deputise for Andy Flower, who is being given a well-earned rest.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John