Published on March 7th, 2018 | by Suraj Choudhari0
The double edged sword
“The thing about this pair is that they are attacking, if Roy won’t get you then Bairstow will. They are like a double edged sword. They are unique in their own way, which at times, makes it difficult for a bowling unit to initiate plans against such a pair”.
Opening the batting requires a different skill-set altogether in every format; it’s a different ball game. It is comparatively easier against the white ball, but the pressure of scoring quick runs is always there. The new ball swings a bit and the openers need to assess the conditions and get their team off to a decent start.
England may have struggled to get a prolific opening pair in Test cricket, but that is not the scenario in shorter formats whatsoever. They have a plethora of impactful options to choose from, which gives them flexibility. English openers have done a fantastic job in the recent times, especially the pair of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. The duo wreaked havoc against the best of the bowling attacks and have been an interesting find at the top for England. Although they have not set the stage on fire in the first three games of the ongoing series, but it is only about time before they rediscover their mojo as a pair.
England had a torrid time in 2015 World Cup, but have transformed with every series since then. Under the astute captaincy of Eoin Morgan, England are now one of the favourites for the upcoming 2019 World Cup. They have some powerful stroke-makers and match-winners in the line-up, they keep coming at you. They have incredible depth and stability along with some impactful all-rounders. Their line-up inspires confidence on paper as well as on the field.
In shorter formats, the role of the top-order is very crucial, especially the openers. They set the tempo and influence the rest of the batting line-up. They play a key role in making look batting easy or difficult. In batting-friendly conditions, they need to garner quick runs and put the opposition on the back foot, while on tough pitches, they need to stabilise the ship and save the middle-order from getting exposed.
Talking about Jason Roy, he is a solid stroke-maker, a dashing opener who has redefined batting. The stylish right-handed batsman has been a force to be reckoned in shorter formats and done a commendable job for England. Bairstow, on the other hand, has found new life as an opener, he has been very productive and scored runs on a consistent basis against the new ball at the top.
In the fourth ODI against New Zealand, the duo wreaked havoc with the new ball and set the momentum from the outset at Dunedin. They assessed the batting-friendly conditions quickly and got the ball rolling. After having failed to fire as a pair in first three games, they got a steady 77-run partnership in this game. Although England lost the game by five wickets, but the series is still alive and the ultimate game is a virtual final.
Roy played with immense confidence and looked good for a century, but was dismissed after a solid start. Ish Sodhi got the better of him of 42 after which, Jonny Bairstow cut loose. Bairstow placed his innings sensibly and played one of the best knocks of his ODI career. He kept hitting those big sixes at will and took on the New Zealand spinners with some guile. With the help of 14 boundaries and seven mammoth sixes, Bairstow scored 138 to lay the foundation for a massive English total. He made the utmost use of the batting conditions and churned out a crucial innings.
Bairstow has batted 15 times at the top, averaging 58.33 as compared to his career ODI average of 46.44. He has garnered 700 runs at the top, which includes three centuries and a half-century. In fact, his top two highest scores in ODI cricket have come while opening the batting. His style of play is more suited to the new ball and looks extremely comfortable. His elevation at the top has certainly turned out to be a master-stroke by England.
A batting collapse in the middle, didn’t let England post the desired total as they were eventually restricted to 339. New Zealand gunned down the total convincingly with five wickets to spare and the series is now evenly poised. As a pair, Bairstow and Roy have batted together 12 innings, scoring 585 runs at a staggering average 48.75.
The thing about this pair is that they are attacking, if Roy won’t get you then Bairstow will. They are like a double edged sword. They are unique in their own way, which at times, makes it difficult for a bowling unit to initiate plans against such a pair. As of now, their goal would be to get big scores in the final game and help England seal the series. There is a lot to come from this pair and have a long way to go. They have great potential, and it will be interesting to see if they convert it into performance in the games to come.