White Ball Success Doesn't Mean Test Match Brilliance

Jason Roy is, without doubt, one of the best limited-overs openers ever to put on an England shirt.

A One Day International record of 87 matches, 3,434 runs at an average of over 42 is one of the best of any England opening batsman. Plus, a strike rate of over 100 is exceptional, and we see so often how quick a start he gets his team off to.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the South African-born batsman, succumbing to a golden duck in his first innings in ODI cricket, in a match where England scored over 400 for the first time in a 50 over match.

Despite a dodgy start to his international career, Roy has built himself up to become a formidable opening batsman, and has, to date, the fifth-highest average (min. 10 inns), scored the third-highest amount of runs, and the second-highest strike rate of any opening batsman for England in ODIs.

Alongside his partner in crime Jonny Bairstow, the two batsmen have built one of the most prolific ODI opening partnerships of all time, and the most successful ever for England.

The two have opened together 35 times, scoring 2,363 runs at an average of an astonishing 67.51, with a staggering 11 hundred run partnerships.

However, whilst Bairstow has had an arguably successful test career (although I would argue he hasn’t), Roy has only managed five tests, with just one half-century in 12 innings which came against Ireland on debut.

The 29-year-old, from Durban, was called up to the test side after his remarkable performances at the World Cup, where he averaged 63.28 and scored 443 runs.

However, it’s not the first time a successful English ODI opener has been drafted in to open in test cricket.

The first player who springs to mind is Nick Knight, who played 100 ODIs for England and is arguably one of England’s most successful 50 over opening batsmen.

He is currently the fourth-highest run-scorer for English opening batsmen in ODIs, just behind a certain Jason Roy.

It’s also completely coincidental that Knight is one place behind Roy in the highest batting average for England ODI openers.

Maybe the two are more alike than first thought.

Knight opened the batting in first-class and international cricket, although only opened in 11 of his 17 tests, with his highest score of 113 coming at number six.

He finished his career with a lacklustre test average of 23.96.

A more recent example would be Alex Hales, who debuted in South Africa in 2015 after the selectors looked past Adam Lyth and scored a half-century in his second test match at Cape Town.

Hales then followed it up with fifties on home soil in 2016 but fell agonisingly short of a maiden century and a chance for his name on the famous Lord’s honours board and an average of just over 27.

Neither Knight nor Hales could quite get the knack of test match cricket.

However, unlike Knight, Roy and Hales do not (most of the time) open the batting in first-class cricket.

Roy has often batted at three or four for Surrey, although has not played many four-day games in recent years.

His last first-class match was in September 2018, where he made a quickfire 128 batting at three against Essex.

However, despite having never opened in professional red-ball cricket before, at least not to my knowledge, head selector Ed Smith pushed Roy into the deep end; opening the batting on a green seamer at Lord’s.

It wasn’t long before weaknesses against the moving ball began to show as he was the first wicket to fall for just five, edging to first slip.

Roy made amends in England’s second innings with 72 - batting at his usual number three slot - after Jack Leach stole the show with 92 – the fifth-highest score by an English nightwatchman.

Then along came the Australians.

Cummins, Starc, Siddle and Hazlewood proved to be a real test for Roy, as well as most of England’s batting line-up.

After failures opening in the first three tests of the series, including dancing down the wicket to Nathan Lyon whilst trying to save the game at Edgbaston, Roy was moved back down to the middle order, with Joe Denly taking his place as opener for the fourth test at Old Trafford.

Whilst the Kent supporter in me didn’t want Denly to open since he too bats in the middle order for his county, I knew he had more opening credentials than the Surrey man.

The move paid off for Denly, but no so for Roy. The latter had his highest aggregate for the series, but he certainly didn’t set the world alight, or prove anything to the selectors or fans as to why he should be in England whites.

Roy was left out of the squad to tour New Zealand in late 2019, opting for Warwickshire’s Dom Sibley to open, and Surrey superstar Ollie Pope to bat in the middle order, with Denly moving back to three.

It does seem slightly harsh that Roy wasn’t given a second chance after playing in a position he was completely unaccustomed to in red-ball cricket.

Personally, Ed Smith should have picked Roy where he was more comfortable batting- such as in the middle order. However, after such a poor run of scores and Roy dancing around all over the place against a moving red-ball, it was the right decision to drop him.

With Roy having a mediocre first-class career to date, it was only right that England moved on, and picked players with a weight of red-ball runs behind them, and maybe, just maybe, England will learn their lessons when picking test players off the back of white-ball form.

This article was written exclusively for golear.co.uk