A couple of weeks back at the Wankhede Stadium as Joe Root’s 44-ball 83 got him the Man of the Match award, there was hardly any talk about opener Jason Roy’s innings. Roy had made 43 at a strike rate of over 260. On Thursday at Kotla, after his 44-ball 78 took England into the final, Roy ensured that he remained part of all cricket conversations way after the game got over.
In a star-studded England top-order, Roy has been trying to live up to the expectations that have grown around his potential. The comparisons, though probably premature, have been made with one of England’s finest match winners. Back home in England, they have called him “Kevin Pietersen Mark II’. You can’t blame the English fans to be optimistic since Roy was born in South Africa and plays for Surrey, KP’s county.
Roy is yet to play a Test match for England but he has already been hyped up as a charismatic talent. And like any young batsman who is talked up there is anticipation when he is at the crease. Root’s innings in Mumbai overshadowed what Roy did before him at the top of the order. Earlier this week against Sri Lanka in Delhi, Roy’s 42 off 39 paled as Butler made 66 off 37. For the second successive game, Roy had got overshadowed.
After the game, the man of the moment spoke about his batting approach. “My batting philosophy is pretty simple, watch the ball and hit the ball and find gaps in the field and hit the boundaries,” Roy said at the end of the game.
In the first over of the innings bowled by Corey Anderson, Roy saw the gaps and found the boundaries – four fours. He cut, drove and charged to immediately put the pressure on the New Zealand bowlers who were defending a total which was below par on a good batting wicket and a quick outfield.
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Roy’s opening partner Alex Hales too chipped in with a four and a six as he made 20 off 19 as England set the tone for the chase. England needed somebody at the top to wipe out the runs quickly and take control of the semifinal. The threat posed by the New Zealand spinners loomed. Roy didn’t leave the other batsmen with too much of work once he was finished for the day.
At the end of the powerplay England were 67 for no loss, 49 of these runs coming off the bat of Roy. When England reached 100 in the 11th over, Roy had smashed his way to 74 at that point in time.
After his pacers were hit for 49 runs in the first four overs, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson turned to his trumpcard, left-arm spinner Michael Santner. Roy took him on, hitting him for two consecutive fours off the first two deliveries he faced. Santner wasn’t getting as much turn on this wicket as Williamson would have liked and the pacers were not getting any real swing. So the New Zealand skipper went for the other ace up his sleeve, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. Roy, a modern unorthodox batsman who plays the reverse sweep and the switch hit well, opted for the former to disrupt Sodhi’s line and length and find a boundary in the second ball he faced from the tall spinner. Williamson was running out of options by now.
New Zealand raised hopes of a fight back when Sodhi dismissed Roy and the out of sorts skipper Morgan in consecutive balls in the 13th over. But the hat-trick ball was defended by Butler and England didn’t lose another wicket. Butler who came in at No.5 stroked 32 off 17 and Root made a steady 27 to take them home with plenty to spare.