Surrey’s Jason Roy should be in the England Test team’s top order for the Ashes series and has a hugely important role in tomorrow’s World Cup semi-final against Australia.
That’s the view of Mark Butcher, the former Surrey and England batsman now working part-time across a couple of jobs – as a musician with his second album out last week, and as a cricket pundit for Sky Sports.
Butcher was talking to Inside Croydon in our first Under The Flyover podcast, where he was asked about the prospects for Roy and his as yet untapped potential in the five-day format of the game.
Like Butcher, Roy learned his cricket on the playing fields of south Croydon independent schools – Butcher went to Cumnor House prep (his father, Alan Butcher, also a Surrey and England batsman, worked his winters as a sports teacher there, as is recalled in the podcast interview) and to Trinity, while Roy is another of the flurry of international sporting talents who have been nurtured at Whitgift School.
During the Under The Flyover interview, Butcher was asked to recall probably his finest day as an England batsman, the day he almost single-handedly won an Ashes Test match, scoring 173 not out at Headingley in 2001 against the fearsome attack of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne.
Roy should definitely be a part of the England Test team, “and he should bat at No3, like I did then,” Butcher told Under The Flyover.
Gradually, as England, and perhaps the rest of the country, wakes up to the fact that the Cricket World Cup is actually happening – New Zealand and India are due to finish off their semi-final in Manchester today, with Birmingham hosting the other semi-final tomorrow – the excitement is mounting ahead of Sunday’s showpiece final at Lord’s.
And Butcher had a perhaps surprising view on what he would like to see England achieve this summer.
“The Ashes is the best,” he said without hesitation.
“But ask me which I’d like us to win, I’d say the World Cup. Because we’ve done the Ashes, plenty of times… though not while I was playing.”
There is more than an element of “unfinished business” about England’s quest to win the 50-over World Cup, having three times finished as losing finalists. Eoin Morgan’s side came into this year’s over-long tournament (they began playing matches in May) as the favourites, but now having to overcome their oldest rivals, and five-time World Cup-winners, just to reach the final.
And Roy could prove to be the key figure in that endeavour.
Remarkably, at nearly 29, the belligerent opening batsman who has scored more than 3,000 one-day international runs and has played in a T20 World Cup final is yet to play a Test match. In this World Cup he has scored 341 runs (averaging 68), his blisteringly quick scoring rate alongside fellow one-day opener Jonny Bairstow helping to get England’s innings off to domineering starts.
Significantly, it was when Roy was missing through injury that England’s form faltered, to the point of putting the team under pressure just to make the knock-out stages.
Recovered from tearing his left hamstring when fielding against the West Indies last month, Roy’s batting on his return has been integral in victories over India and New Zealand that salvaged England’s place in the last four.
The Australians are aware of that. According to the Sydney Morning Herald today, “Australia have dug forensically into the technique and mindset of Jason Roy in a bid to topple England’s batting brute in Thursday’s World Cup semi-final.”
Roy has not always been assured of his place in England’s one-day line-up. “Having been dropped in the Champions Trophy in 2017 and then working my backside off to get here for the World Cup and being in good form only to get injured I was like ‘give me a break’,” the Surrey player said this week.
But if the Aussies think that they can target Roy’s mental toughness through their pace attack, led by the formidable Mitchell Starc, the England batsman is ready to prove them wrong. “I’m right where I want to be, both mentally and physically,” he said.
“This is the reward for all the hard work and sacrifices we all make. I didn’t put myself in the IPL auction this year and did everything I possibly could to get myself to the point I’m at now.
“It should be a great game and I think them losing to South Africa might have affected their confidence a bit,” Roy said. “This is what you play for, these are the challenges you train for and I don’t want to shy away from an occasion like this. They hammered us at Lord’s, but who knows what Thursday will bring.”
And there’s plenty more England v Australia action to come this summer, with the Ashes series culminating in the fifth and final Test at The Oval in September, something of which Roy very much wants to be a part.
“Playing Test cricket and being in the Ashes has been an ambition of mine for years,” he said. “When you’re young you don’t understand much about batting and you just go out and play, but now I feel I know myself a lot better as a batsman.
“There has been a lot of talk about Test cricket and if the call comes then great, but if it doesn’t then so be it. Most of my batting in first-class cricket has been at 4, 5 or 6, but I batted at 3 twice last year, so I’m happy wherever they want to put me.
“I think I’m better at the top of the order and then I can give it a go from there.”
It’s a point of view that a former Test match No3 agrees with.
In his Under The Flyover interview, Butcher said, “I think he should play. I’d like to see him where I batted, at 3.
“Beggars might not be choosers at the moment. England are trying to fit the jigsaw puzzle together of what their batting line-up will look like, with Joe Root keen to stay at No4.
“So, if Jason ends up opening, I don’t think he will disgrace himself, but my gut feeling is, having done both jobs, having opened and batted at No3, he’d be more suited to 3 than to 1. That’s not to say he won’t make a success of it if he’s given a go.”
- To hear the full Under The Flyover podcast interview with Mark Butcher, click here
- To download Mark Butcher’s new album, Now Playing, click here
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