WATCH – Bairstow hurts himself at training
Jonny Bairstow‘s relentless pursuit of a Champions Trophy starting berth has fallen, officially, on deaf ears, after it was confirmed by Eoin Morgan, England’s ODI captain, that the out-of-form Jason Roy will be backed to the hilt in the forthcoming Champions Trophy – even if his barren run of form continues in Thursday’s tournament opener against Bangladesh at The Oval.
Roy, whose career-best 162 against Sri Lanka came on his Surrey home ground in June 2016, has misplaced his mojo in recent months. He is in the midst of a run of four single-figure scores in his last five ODI innings, and has a top score of 44 in all competitions this season, including a short-lived stint with Gujarat Lions in the IPL.
Bairstow, by contrast, has been in ragingly belligerent form for both Yorkshire and England, on the rare occasions he’s been able to muscle his way into the starting XI. He started his season with a career-best 174 against Durham in the Royal London Cup, and has made three fifties in his last four England innings, including a turbo-charged 72 from 44 balls against Ireland, and a pride-salvaging 51 against South Africa at Lord’s earlier this week after the top order had slumped to 20 for 6.
Morgan, however, will not be swayed on the subject, arguing with some justification that England’s opening partnership of Roy and Alex Hales has been one of the central planks of their white-ball renaissance since the 2015 World Cup, and that to disrupt that now would send precisely the wrong message to an otherwise settled, confident and in-form unit.
“The decision remains the same throughout the tournament,” Morgan told reporters at The Oval, on the eve of the tournament opener against Bangladesh. “Jason Roy is part of our strong opening partnership with Alex Hales. He’ll definitely play.
“If we want our players to play cagily or without freedom, yes, we would change things and probably half of us wouldn’t be here. So backing it up with selection and the way that we want to play, you know, Jason really epitomises the way that we play; the aggression in which he plays, he always plays for the team, and he plays in a manner that is dictated by that. He’s a very important part of our side.
“Jonny will miss out unfortunately. It’s been the case like that for the last couple of years. He’s been very good when he’s come in, but each and every one of us within the batting department has had ups and downs over the years. And one of the strongest parts of reinforcing the way that we play, and the freedom in which we play with, is backing that up with selection.”
Off to a flyer: Jason Roy is charged with giving England a fast start with the bat © AFP
Bairstow’s mood was not improved during England’s morning training session, when he took a painful blow to the hand during a catching drill and was forced to leave the field for an ice pack. Thankfully there was no lasting damage, but even if there had been, it would have had insultingly little impact on England’s plans for the Bangladesh encounter, with Morgan also confirming that Ben Stokes is set to play as a batsman only if his dodgy left knee is unable to withstand the rigours of bowling.
“Ben Stokes has had a little bowl today. We will see how he pulls up tomorrow to see how much he will bowl. But I certainly see him bowling,” Morgan said. “It’s a very strange injury in that it’s only in his delivery stride that he feels the pain. So if given he couldn’t bowl, I still think he’d make great contributions with the bat and in the field.”
Morgan’s determination to show faith in his first-choice XI was arguably reinforced by the events in their most recent ODI performance – when a batting side that had been piling up 300-plus scores for fun was shredded by South Africa’s seamers on a lively but not unplayable Lord’s surface. After slumping to six down in the space of five overs, Morgan admitted that a pre-tournament reality check wasn’t necessarily a terrible thing.
“If you’re looking for positives out of it, absolutely. It certainly was a wake-up call in the fact that you need to be able to adapt in different circumstances,” he said. “When you play against one of the better sides in the world, you can be susceptible to things like that happening in given conditions.”
Thursday’s opponents are not used to being clumped among the “better sides” in the world. And yet, there is no danger of England being anything less than on their guard for the visit of a Bangladesh team who got the better of them at both the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, when their stunning victory at Adelaide delivered the coup de grace to the most miserable campaign yet in England’s sorry history of ICC failure.
“Probably, since then, we’ve been on a huge upward curve,” said Morgan, “and we’ve been tremendously lucky in the fact that we’ve had a group of players that have bought into a way of playing and enjoyed it, and executed extremely well.
“We need to bring our ‘A Game’ if we’re going to win this trophy. If at the end of it, we are holding the trophy, I think we’ll have played really well.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo