KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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Ravi Bopara is determined to make Essex’s LV County Championship fixture with Middlesex the first of many visits to Lord’s in 2011 as he bids for a Test return.
Essex’s new vice-captain has set his sights on replacing the retired Paul Collingwood in the England Test middle order.
Bopara turned down a lucrative offer from Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals in order to maximise his county appearances ahead of the first Test of the summer.
England make four visits to Lord’s in 2011 and Bopara will hope to be involved in them all - providing he can work his way into the side.
Bopara said: "It's important for me to get back into that Test side.
"I recognise this is a great opportunity with a spot available - nothing's going to get me in that side apart from numbers.
"Wickets, runs, anything I can contribute to Essex will make a difference in me being selected.
"Every season is a big season, but this is my opportunity to get back into that team. There are spots available now, and somebody's got to take it.
"I've got to make sure I fulfill my ambitions and my talent as a cricketer.
"Although Twenty20 is a very important part of the game, Test cricket is always going to be the pinnacle."
Time to deliver
Middlesex’s Eoin Morgan is considered by many the likely beneficiary of Collingwood’s retirement.
The Middlesex batsman is currently playing in the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders.
His absence provides 25-year-old Bopara with the ideal opportunity to force his way up the pecking order before the opening Test of the summer - in Cardiff on 26 May.
Essex will be keen to see their star all-rounder weigh in with runs and wickets against Middlesex, as they look to bounce back from an opening round defeat to Kent.
Bopara is returning to the venue of his last Test century for England - against the West Indies in 2009 when he made 143 in a Graeme Onions inspired win.
He has not played a Test match since that summer though, after struggling at number three for the first four Ashes Tests.
Jonathan Trott’s superb start to his Test career has ended any debate over the number three slot but Bopara will be hoping for a chance to start his Test career again at number five.