July 24, 2020 / 7:58 PM / 20 days ago

Pope finally flourishes after struggling with bio-secure environment

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - England batsmen Ollie Pope said he was relieved to be nearing a century in the third and deciding test against the West Indies after failing with the bat earlier in the series.

Cricket - Third Test - England v West Indies - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - July 24, 2020 England's Ollie Pope in action, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Martin Rickett/Pool via REUTERS

Pope scored an unbeaten 91 on the opening day at Old Trafford on Friday, which was more than double the 43 runs he had amassed over four innings during the first two tests of the series.

As the 22-year-old neared his second test century — and a first on home soil — he admitted that he had struggled with the restrictions of the biosecure environment the two sides have been forced to play under amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

“It’s a really a nice feeling tonight because I missed out in the first two games,” Pope told reporters after bad light ended play early with England on 258-4.

“It wasn’t easy because there is no real escape, you cannot go out for coffee, or for dinner or you cannot see your family and you think about your failures a little more than normal.”

By Friday, though, Pope showed that he had adjusted to being in the bubble as he and Jos Buttler featured in an unbroken 136-run partnership to turn the tide in favour of the home side.

Buttler was unbeaten on 56.

West Indies began strongly after winning the toss and electing to field but playing an 11th day of test cricket in just 16 days took its toll as the bowlers looked visibly tired during the final session.

“Hopefully I can go on and get a big one but you’ve got to try and stay as level headed as you can as a batter because there are as many bad days as there are good days,” Pope said.

“I didn’t feel great for my first 50 runs, I had a little bit of luck after edging one. Luck is involved sometimes and you’ve got to make the most of your chances when they do come around.”

Pope, who scored his maiden century in South Africa in January, said he planned to “take a sleeping tablet just before bed to help me hit the hay” and hoped that rain forecast for Manchester on Saturday stayed away.

“I want a chance to go out there and add on more runs.”

Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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