Ravi Bopara: Essex batsman labelled one of world's best 'finishers' after Blast win
Essex's winning captain Simon Harmer acclaimed Ravi Bopara as one of the best "finishers" in world Twenty20 cricket following their Blast triumph.
After his match-winning 39 not out in the quarter-final at Lancashire, Bopara again turned the final with an unbeaten 36 at Edgbaston against Worcestershire.
Eagles skipper Harmer was keen to stress the importance of the 34-year-old being shifted down the order.
"He's one of the best, if not the best, finishers in T20 cricket," said Harmer.
"Ravi is an incredibly talented cricketer. The way he thinks about cricket, the way he bats, the way he bowls, the execution of his skill.
"He is an unbelievable player."
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Having never previously gone further than the first semi-final on Finals Day, playing the second semi suited Essex's big players as Harmer took 4-19, while Bopara (27) supported Cameron Delport (55).
Both Bopara and Harmer then performed again when it mattered most in the final.
Bopara took 2-30 with the ball before his efforts with the bat, while Harmer claimed 3-16 before finishing off the job himself with four boundaries - including two stunning straight drives smashed back at the bowler - in his knock of 18 off seven balls.
Bopara suited for six
After narrowly sneaking out of the South Group on the final night in fourth place, having won just five of their 14 games - although four were abandoned in what has been a rain-hit tournament - Essex were then handed a huge stroke of fortune.
Having romped to top spot in the North Group, tournament favourites Lancashire were made to concede home advantage by an England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) fixture compilation blunder that meant their Old Trafford home was booked for Ashes Test match duty, forcing the game to be played 140 miles away from Manchester in Chester-le-Street.
But it was Bopara who made Lancashire really buckle when he helped plunder 22 off the quarter-final's penultimate over, bowled by leg-spinner Liam Livingstone.
The shunting of Bopara from higher up the order was a decision made by Harmer when he became Essex's T20 captain, which the former England one-day all-rounder was not immediately on board with.
But it was one of several changes made by the South African to make the Eagles a more competitive force.
"In order for us to win games, I felt we needed him to come in at six and finish off games," Harmer told BBC Sport.
"After some time away from the team, he bought in 100 percent and has reaped the rewards.
"I can understand his frustration but hopefully, even if it's not now, if it's five or 10 years down the line, he will agree that he is best suited for five or six."
Skipper brings Proteas' psyche to Eagles
Bopara's drop down the batting order was one of many "difficult decisions" former South Africa all-rounder Harmer said he has had to make since taking over the captaincy.
But the 30-year-old says Essex's players have bought in to the no-nonsense approach that he developed in his homeland.
Harmer said: "There were changes that needed to happen for us to move forward as a Twenty20 team. A couple of players got dropped. Senior players.
"It was not a popular decision to drop them but I felt it was best for the team in order to get 11 guys on the park all pulling in the same direction. That was my toughest challenge.
"After that, things just went our way.
"I don't like referring to it but the South African mindset and the competitive environment that I grew up in, to come over here, you need to understand how things work.
"If you look at some of the South African coaches and players that have come here and clashed heads with English players, there's a certain narrative in terms of how things work and how you get people to buy in.
"I was very conscious of that at the beginning. Of how I wanted to go about it.
"But, for the work the players have put in and the human beings that they are, they deserve everything.
"There were a lot of nerves coming to Edgbaston, given our previous record at Finals Day but to come here and find a wicket turning like that, I couldn't have asked personally for a better day."