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Feast-or-famine Jason Roy the semi-final key

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Expert
10th July, 2019
5

When England opener Jason Roy pads up for the biggest innings of his career, he’s likely to go one of two ways.

The explosive right-hander will either be back in the sheds early, or flaying the new ball to all parts of a raucous Edgbaston, raising the bat along the way.

Roy’s recent form against Australia suggests his stay at the crease is a case of feast or famine.

In his last ten encounters, the opener has been dismissed for two runs or fewer on four occasions. But once he has passed that all-important mark of two, the 28-year-old has averaged an incredible 91.8.

This run has featured three centuries, including a memorable 180 (off 151) at the MCG, and a devastating 101 (83) at Chester-le-Street.

They are remarkable stats and a pattern which isn’t confined to matches against Australia. In Roy’s last ten (official) ODI innings, each time he has reached double-figures, he has made a half-century or better.

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The numbers project an obvious warning that if Australia are to quell the man from Surrey’s influence, they likely have to do so in the opening overs.

He has been dismissed caught on seven of the last eight occasions, and unquestionably Justin Langer will implore Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff (should he retain his place) to pitch it up early. That tactic does lend itself to leaking early boundaries, owing to Roy’s ruthless ability to put away half volleys, but it’s a risk that must be taken against a player high on confidence.

Mitchell Starc bowling

Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto

Australian bowling coach Adam Griffith wouldn’t reveal the plan to Roy when speaking to the press, other than to say there was a pointed strategy.

“When we bowl our best, that’s good enough to take wickets,” Griffith said.

“When our big left-armers start swinging the ball back into the pads and going across, and obviously Patty [Cummins] doing his thing getting the seam up, we’ve got a couple of things we’ll work on with him.”

Roy has averaged 68.2 at an impressive strike rate of 114 this World Cup – his first appearance at the global tournament. He is an intimidating figure at the top of the order, who can win the game off his own bat in the first 20 overs. His confidence is also apparent in the media, questioning the mental impact of South Africa’s win over Australia on Sunday morning.

Teammate Moeen Ali, writing for The Guardian on Tuesday said Roy fit the match-winner tag: “We have a few big players but he is the one batsman who can take down the opposition’s best bowler and make them look very average. The expression ‘x factor’ gets thrown around a lot but he genuinely has it.”

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Roy’s re-emergence gives England a certain stability at the top after James Vince failed to make an impact in his absence. It’s no coincidence that his return from injury has, in turn, seen England claim two convincing wins against fellow semi-finalists India and New Zealand.

Roy and partner Jonny Bairstow plundered opening stands of 160 and 123 respectively in those games at a combined strike rate of 115.5, setting up both wins.

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After emerging from the nervy encounters, the hosts now have a distinct sense of confidence, in slight contrast with the Aussies.

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Just 16 days ago many were hailing the timing of Australia’s run at this World Cup after the 64-run win over England at Lord’s. But the fluency of that run appears to have been halted by injuries to Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh, and perhaps more pertinently, continued questions over the form of both the team’s all-rounders.

By no stretch are the Aussies down and out, but an undeniable momentum shift has fallen in favour of the hosts.

Momentum or not, the only thing that matters is executing skills. And doing so against Roy is perhaps the Aussie bowlers’ biggest challenge.