“Whatever it was that aided him, England will hope and pray that it sticks with him for a Roy armed with all the confidence in the World is a belligerent, relentless monster”.
The 2015 World Cup would be remembered as a magical cornerstone in England’s limited-overs fortunes. The founders of the game had gotten stuck somewhere between the traditional nature of Test cricket and the gaga of T20s that their woeful One Day International performance reached new lows in the marquee event.
What unfolded over the course of the next few months was unforeseen. They lost their head coach and managing director but turned from an old-fashioned unit to an ultra-modern one. Four of their batsmen are in the top 15 run-getters in ODIs since the 2015 event. It shows the kind of turnaround they have made in limited-overs cricket.
Apart from scaling the 300 mark several times – even 400 once – England have not just beaten but destroyed opposition teams in ODIs. If anything, they went from a reliable, solid Test side to a remarkable limited-overs unit, capable of becoming World-beaters.
Symbolising England’s dramatic turnaround once again was Jason Roy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground a few days after their Ashes debacle (no surprise there! ). The return of Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid had made England’s bowling much more vicious and though Australia stumbled, they managed a fight from their lower order to pull themselves up over the psychologically important 300 mark.
In Tests, that would have been more than enough to dump England into the ashes. Not against their ODI side, though. As the visitors lost Johnny Bairstow – surprisingly promoted above Alex Hales to open the batting – and Hales, Australia seemed to be right on top.
But when Jason Roy got going, Australia had no answers. Their Ashes heroes – Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins – gave away 134 runs in 20 overs combined, sorely lacked in oomph and kept digging it in short.
Roy is not the kind of batsman you want to make mistakes against. He chastises the good balls when on fire with his brute, raw power and luxurious flow of the bat. It is easy to forget Roy in England’s power-packed top-order.
There is the elegant, classy Alex Hales whom you want to pull into the Test squad just for his glorious cover driving, the spectacular Joe Root whose composure and strike rotation puts him on a pedestal and the uncanny, yet mightily effective Eoin Morgan. These three huge names put Jason Roy’s flat-batted power and lack of footwork to shame at times. But the point is possibly none of these three can quite match the shot-making ability of Roy when he gets going.
The Roy cyclone
On Sunday, the opening batsman – with a solid know-how of Australian conditions post his Big Bash League stint with Sydney Sixers – was in a marauding mood. He dispatched the Aussie bowlers to all corners of the huge MCG – the flat, unforgiving nature of the wicket not helping – and raced away to make the highest ever ODI score by an England batsman.
His 180 not only pulled England out of the abyss they were in at one point of time, but also put them within touching distance of a win. He had solid company in Joe Root, with whom he stitched together a 221 run stand, but he barely needed company today. It was one of those Midas days for good, old Jason Roy and he made it count by sending the ball flying to all parts of the ground.
“I think the main thing is knowing how good each other is,” Roy said after his record-breaking knock. “Knowing our middle order is incredibly special and talented and can win games from anywhere. To have that behind you gives you so much confidence at the top of the order. Knowing each other’s roles is important and everybody knows their own roles. That’s something we’ve built on and got a good foundation now. But it’s one win, four more games to go.”
He had a point. With such brute force down the order, England’s opener has the luxury to stick to his natural game. What is more, the management backs him to the hilt. Even during a disastrous home season and a poor Champions Trophy, England persisted with him until the final where they eventually sent Bairstow up the order in his stead. But soon Roy was back in the scheme of things and kept justifying his inclusion.
At MCG, he did more than merely showcasing his talents. There was a kind of new-found maturity and temperament in his approach that took Australia by surprise.
“It’s been a while coming, I had a very tough year in 2017 … being dropped from the side and then being brought back into it towards the end of the year,” Roy said of his personal turnaround. “It kind of gave me a bit of a kick to recognise where I’m at, where my preparation is and start building up a platform to get ready for internationals. It has turned around incredibly quickly, that’s the nature of this game – especially in one-day and T20 cricket.”
Whatever it was that aided him, England will hope and pray that it sticks with him for a Roy armed with all the confidence in the World is a belligerent, relentless monster.