x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Cook puts his faith in Bopara

Alastair Cook says that his Essex and England teammate can come good once again on the international stage.

When Shane Warne remarked that Ravi Bopara was "a good first-class cricketer, but not an international cricketer", the Englishman turned the other cheek. Three centuries against the West Indies earlier in the summer appeared to have cemented Bopara in the England side and quell the anxiety over the troublesome No 3 spot. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar - a childhood hero of Bopara - remarked how the Essex batsman "can become something special" after witnessing his performances against the Windies.

But those sentiments could be no further from the mind in the current climate given Bopara's woeful start to the Ashes. A top score of 35 in the opening three Test matches and some erratic fielding have placed question marks over Bopara's ability compete at the highest level. Such are the concerns over the 24-year-old batsman that he has now reverted to working with club coach and former England captain Graham Gooch.

Yet, Bopara's Essex and England teammate Alastair Cook believes is old school friend will soon regain the form that saw him heralded as one of the brightest prospects in world cricket. "I've known Ravi since we were teenagers and even then you could tell he would go on to play for England," said Cook. "We used to play in the playground and he just had so much confidence in his ability and I'm sure he'll show that again now.

"There's no doubt he can play at this level and he had such a fantastic series against the West Indies and I know he can do it against Australia. "He is a very strong person and is supremely confident and so I'm not too worried about him at all. He will bounce back. He has so much talent and I don't think he'll be too down about his form at the moment." Cook, who looked in good touch at Lord's after scoring 95, has concerns of his own having hit just two centuries in his past 21 Test matches.

Most worrying for the southpaw, also 24, is his inability to convert his starts into big scores, a matter he is trying hard to rectify. "As a batsman you always want to go on and get big scores and that's what I'm striving to do," said Cook. "It is frustrating when you get out in the 60s and 70s but it's something I'm trying to address." Meanwhile, England fast bowler Graham Onions has been awarded an incremental contract.