1. ITV Report

Bopara leaves Essex after 18 years

Ravi Bopara is leaving Essex after 18 years Credit: Press Association

Ravi Bopara has revealed he has played his last game for Essex County Cricket Club after 18 years - having signed for rivals Sussex.

The 34-year-old made the announcement on Twitter, thanking teammates, coaching staff and fans who have supported him since he first joined the club through its youth system.

A spokesman for Essex County Cricket Club confirmed Bopara had rejected a "new and improved" contract and had instead decided to "pursue a fresh challenge".

Bopara made his debut in 2002 at the age of just 17 and has since played 499 games across all formats.

The club described him as a "unbelievable servant" and praised his many inspiring performances over the last 18 years.

Ravi Bopara celebrates victory in the County Cricket championship with his Essex teammates Credit: Press Association

"I want to thank this crazy bunch of lads and coaching staff that I play with who have become a formidable team and you will all be truly missed.

"To the fans, I salute you. You have made every day on the field at Essex an absolute honour."

– Ravi Bopara, former Essex cricketer

Bopara played a key role in Essex Eagle's recent T20 Blast victory, which the club won for the first time following a final against Worcestershire Rapids that went down to the final ball.

Just a few days later, Essex won their second County Championship title in three years.

Following that victory, Bopara hinted at his decision when he said he could not say whether he could be at Chelmsford next season.

Ravi Bopara won the recent T20 Blast with Essex Credit: Press Association

"I speak for the team when I say we are very sad to see Rav leave the club after 18 years.

"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.

"He's been a great teammate and a fiercely loyal friend. It will be strange to play against him next, but we wish him all the very best at his new club."

– Ryan ten Doeschate, Captain, Essex County Cricket Club

Sussex Cricket said they were thrilled with Bopara's move, describing it as "a bit of a coup".

Action shot. Bopara during the recent T20 Blast tournament Credit: Press Association