Cow Corner

Should England finally give up on Bopara?

Ravi Bopara's horror run with the bat continued when he fell for a second-ball duck at Trent Bridge in the fifth and final one-day international, and again the critics were out in force.

Since returning to action, the Essex batsman has had a miserable run of scores: 1, 3, 2, 16, 0 and 6.

It seems as though this perennial problem will never be resolved to everyone's satisfaction with some continuing to call for him to be given an extended run in the side, while others cannot believe that England are still persisting with a consistent under-performer.

Coming into the final ODI at Trent Bridge, many argued for Bopara to be dropped down the order, but instead he was elevated to number three, and the threat of England losing two early wickets was realised.

Ian Bell fell early, and Bopara followed him back five minutes later. Bereft of any confidence, he looked a world-weary man as he trudged slowly off the ground after an apprehensive prod.

A few cricket correspondents wrote earlier this week that they were tired of producing the same copy - 'will Bopara ever come good?' - but at this rate it is going to continue well beyond the World Twenty20 and tour to India.

Bopara has been inked in for the number three spot at the World Twenty20, and England may well go into the competition with the occupant of a key spot in desperately poor nick.

It is understood that he was provisionally marked for the position following a solid half-century against West Indies earlier in the summer, which would only serve to infuriate those who argue that England reward batsmen far too handsomely for average contributions.

Bopara's bowling has been the only positive to take away from his efforts, and this season he averages 23.28 with the ball in ODIs - with an economy rate of just 3.46. But it is surely not enough for a frontline batsman in a crucial position in the order to simply survive in the team due to fleeting flurries of wickets as a part-time bowler.

A tough Test return at The Oval - where he made 0 and 22, twice falling to Dale Steyn -was followed by an absence due to personal reasons, and he would certainly have had the Headingley Test and maybe Lord's to try and convince the selectors that he was was the man for the number six spot.

But he has just never managed to hold down a regular place in the England side, and another poor run with the bat has only served to further undermine his position within the ranks.

Bopara has been on a downward spiral with the bat since his self-inflicted exile from the second Test, and his mentality and strength of character on the biggest stage continues to be questioned.

Only this week, Bopara came out in support of the omitted Kevin Pietersen, when he said: "It'd be nice to see him back in England colours. He's a great player; we know he's a class player. I hope for him things turn out well."

It could be Pietersen who is brought back in to solve the problem England are encountering in the middle order, and Bopara failed in his task of papering over the cracks with his performances in this series.

It would be entirely wrong for anyone to suggest that there are no other candidates beyond Pietersen for Bopara's spot in the limited-overs sides, with the likes of Jose Buttler, Chris Woakes, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and James Taylor among those on the fringes.

Regardless of how his statistics are spun, the fact that Bopara has yet to score a century in one-day cricket from 83 matches with a rapidly deteriorating average of 30.62 has got to be more than just a cause for concern.

Indeed, ahead of the World Twenty20 in which he is expected to play a key role, he averages just 22.37 with only two half-centuries from 20 matches.

England appear happy to continue to pick Bopara, but there should not be any great expectation of the same old results suddenly picking up. There have simply been far too many false dawns.

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TWEET OF THE DAY: "Ravi Bopara might become the Graeme Hick of his generation - a nice bloke who everyone wants to succeed but consistently fails to deliver." (@DavidMutton)

STAT OF THE DAY: It was the first time England have been bowled out batting first at home in a one-day international since 2009.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "I feel very sorry for Ravi, but I do not think he will be part of this English set up for very long. He has had his chance, but has fluffed too many. I do not think he is a player who can handle pressure." (David)