Jason Roy’s excellent ton led England to a big victory over Australia in Cardiff. Ben Jones looks at the changes Roy made to counter his clear weaknesses.
It’s almost impossible to discuss England’s top-order batting in ODI cricket without using the phrase “abundance of riches”. That a man like Alex Hales is broadly confined to the bench, barring injury or suspension, is testament to the depth in the batting ranks.
In such an environment, no player is completely safe in their position, and slumps in form are unlikely to be tolerated for long. As such, Jason Roy’s run of 10 innings without a half-century would have been a concern.
Worryingly for Roy, he’d been getting out in different ways against the seamers, falling to full balls, short balls, wide balls, straight balls. To an extent, he’s been finding ways to get out.
From watching Roy in the nets, it was clear what he and the England coaches believed to be the problem – too much bottom hand involvement with his stroke-making. Repeated drills where Roy used only his top-hand were the order of the day, with Graham Thorpe trying to find a better balance between Roy’s natural power and the increased control that comes with more top-hand guidance.
All that work seemed to pay dividends. Off Roy’s first 51 runs, 34 came through the off-side – not definitive proof that Roy’s bottom-hand was taking a back seat, but it’s a reasonable indicator. He was certainly playing with greater control, as this was only the second time in his ODI career that Roy reached the 20th over without edging any deliveries.
Of course, once well-set at the crease and seeing the ball well, Roy began to score more freely through the leg-side. By the time AJ Tye managed to remove Roy with a slower ball, 58% of the Surrey man’s score had been made through the off-side. Yet that is still notable; that’s the highest figure for Roy, in innings where he’s faced 10+ deliveries, since October 2016.
To just jump back briefly, there is far clearer pattern to Roy’s dismissals against spin. Roy has consistently been getting tucked up by tight line bowling, playing across the line and being bowled or LBW. In particular, he’s struggled against left-arm orthodox bowling in this way. As shown below, his dismissals against those bowlers have all been against balls tight into his stumps, or even hitting them. Given that he averages less against SLA bowling than against any other bowling type, it’s clear that these issues are pretty deep set.
However today, the focus on top-hand batting had the added effect of improving Roy’s returns against left-arm spin. It took until he was on 103* before Roy scored a leg-side run against Ashton Agar. That recent fear against tight spin bowling was gone because Roy refused to play across the line, opting instead to hit the ball back where it came from and keeping a pronounced, almost comically high elbow. He didn’t miss a single delivery and edged just one. Yet even whilst removing half of the pitch from his scoring options, Roy still had a stellar time against Agar – the 27 runs he scored against the Australian is the most he’s ever scored against SLA bowling in an ODI match.
In the end, the 9% false shots which Roy played through his innings represents the greatest level of control he’s had in any of his five ODI tons, and the fourth lowest in any of his 16 ODI half-centuries. His firecracker ball-striking is why Roy’s in the team, and England wouldn’t want to lose any of that, but if he can improve his consistency and control with a few technical tweaks, then nobody in the England dressing room will be complaining.