Ravi Bopara: Essex all-rounder joins Sussex after 18 years

Ravi Bopara and Simon Harmer lift the T20 Blast trophy aloft after Essex's win over Worcestershire
Ravi Bopara (left) lifts the T20 Blast trophy aloft after Essex's final win over Worcestershire

Former England all-rounder Ravi Bopara has ended an 18-year association with county champions Essex to join Sussex.

Essex - who also won this summer's T20 Blast - said the 34-year-old had turned down an "improved" offer to stay.

Bopara said he has a "burning desire to achieve greater things", but will focus more on playing T20 cricket.

"I want to emphasise that I am not giving up red-ball cricket but I will, for now, play less of it to find time to up-skill in T20," he explained.

"[I want to] take my game to a new level as I still have a drive to play international cricket."

Meanwhile, all-rounder Matt Coles has also left Essex. The 29-year-old played 22 matches across all formats during a two-year spell, taking 38 wickets and scoring 187 runs.

Bopara made his first-class debut for Essex in 2002, aged 17, lifting the County Championship title in 2017 and 2019 after helping the county finish top of Division Two in 2016.

He scored 11,148 first-class runs for Essex at an average of 42.06, and played 499 games across all formats.

"Rav has always been extremely popular in the dressing room, combining unbelievable talent, skill, hard work, and a great cricket mind with a friendly, witty and comical demeanour," said Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate.

Bopara's unbeaten 36 from 22 balls helped the Eagles beat Worcestershire in last month's T20 Blast final and he averaged 48.5 with the bat through the competition.

He played 13 Tests, 120 one-day and 38 Twenty20 games for England, the last of them in 2015.

"It's a bit of a coup for us to be perfectly honest: what a wonderful player Ravi has been for England and Essex for a long, long time," said Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie.

Analysis

BBC Radio Sussex commentator Adrian Harms

Speculation has been rife since the end of the season regarding Ravi Bopara's future, and Sussex were always quietly confident of securing his services.

It represents the second major signing of the autumn following hard on the heels of Travis Head, and is testament to the quality of player that Jason Gillespie is capable of attracting

How much Championship cricket Bopara will play is open to some debate, but the Sussex batting line-up, which failed to deliver last season, now has genuine competition for places.

As regards T20, Bopara will undoubtedly strengthen what over the last two seasons has been an exciting and successful line-up, and the County Ground is likely to be packed to the rafters once the competition starts next summer.