The first extracted the absolute maximum out of his abilities to have a long and successful international career, whilst the latter has yet to justify his obvious talent consistently on the biggest stage. Collingwood is one of the mentally toughest cricketers to have played for England whereas Bopara has a reputation for being a bit flaky and prone to serious lapses in form, confidence and concentration.
But Bopara was the man Andy Flower initially earmarked as Collingwood’s replacement in the Test side before Eoin Morgan stole the prize from the Essex man at the death prior to the home series with Sri Lanka last summer.
Since then Bopara had suffered misfortune after misfortune as first Samit Patel and then Jonathan Bairstow were handed opportunities to cement a role in England’s troublesome number six position.
But finally Bopara has got his turn again, and after an inauspicious duck in the 1st innings at The Oval now has the chance to prove he is a worthy successor to Collingwood. The Ginger Ninja cemented his reputation as the iron-willed Brigadier Block with starring roles in the nine-wicket down rearguards at Cardiff, Centurion and Cape Town.
As Geoffrey Boycott forcibly stated on TMS yesterday evening, the mindset required to save a Test is markedly different to coming in and playing a few strokes. Does Bopara have the aptitude, concentration and sheer bloody-mindedness to tough it out on a day five pitch against a formidable attack spearheaded by the irrepressible Dale Steyn?
We are about to find out. If Bopara leads England to an unlikely escape, it could be the making of him.
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