Jason Roy returns with 'swagger' to remind England what has brought them this far
Last Updated: 01/07/19 1:02pm
This was England.
Aggressive, on the front foot, taking the attack to the opposition bowlers. The uncertainty and caught-between-two-stools approach that cost them against Sri Lanka, in particular, was nowhere to be seen; in its place total conviction.
The difference Jason Roy makes to this team, even at 80 per cent fitness, is incredible. James Vince is much maligned and has struggled in this World Cup but he is not a bad player. However, he isn't Jason Roy either, as aesthetically pleasing as his cover drive may be, Roy's look pretty good too and the two that he drilled past the infield in the first over gave England the impetus they have lacked without him at the top of the order.
The opener departed for 66 from 57 balls, England were 160-1 in the 23rd over and well on their way to a commanding total.
They duly delivered that with Jonny Bairstow striking a magnificent hundred before Ben Stokes continued his fine run of form with a quickfire 79 as they finished on 337-7.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli threatened to take India close for a while, two experts pacing the chase brilliantly to sow a few seeds of doubt in England minds but once they had gone - another returning player, Liam Plunkett, accounting for Kohli and the impressive Chris Woakes nicking off Rohit - the game got away from them.
The bowlers restricted India well at the death to ensure a more handsome margin of victory. It was a team effort with a number of noteworthy individual performances but given what we have seen in the past two games, it is hard not to conclude that it is Roy who made the biggest impact.
"This lad Jason Roy has come in and has made a huge difference - not just in the way he has played - but also what has been lacking in the last couple of games has been that bit of swagger, self-belief and strut that Roy has," Nasser Hussain said at the interval.
There is certainly something of an aura around Roy and as Hussain suggests it was that 'swagger' as much as the runs he scored that made such a difference to England. The way he scores his runs, the self-assurance in his strokes, dismissively drilling some of the world's best bowlers to the boundary, it all exudes confidence and that permeates through the team.
Not least to his partner at the top of the order.
Bairstow initially struggled to get going but with Roy alongside him, some of the pressure was off. He was not expected to single-handedly get England off to a flyer and in truth, even with Roy alongside him, they didn't do that.
47-0 at the end of the powerplay represented a steady start. A solid base. Important and keeping Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami at bay early on is always handy but at the same time India won't have been overly concerned at that stage.
But then rarely do you see that base built on so quickly and with such authority, especially against such a high-class attack. Kohli took off his opening bowlers and England took on their replacements, namely spin duo Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Roy had already pummelled Chahal to the boundary in successive balls when the leggie was introduced in the powerplay and when he returned, Bairstow joined in as well.
Kuldeep went the distance too with England blitzing 98 from the next 10 overs. The spinners who so often squeeze the life out of the opposition in the middle overs for India were watching the ball sail into the stands with alarming regularity.
The batting bordered on arrogant, there was no respect for reputation and even good balls were flying into the crowd. This was England, the real England. Chests puffed out and no backward steps.
England have a few players who embody that attitude on the field - Stokes immediately springs to mind - but having someone like Roy to remind them of it from the off is crucial.
As good as Bairstow is, this World Cup has shown he is even better with Roy alongside him and he is not the only one in the England side.
Joe Root struggled to get going at Edgbaston, although 44 from 54 balls is still far more disastrous, but his job as the player who knits the innings together is made that much easier when you have such a power either side of him in the batting order, allowing him to score that bit slower on occasion and still help get the team up to total well in excess of 300.
The same goes for Stokes and Jos Buttler, they are able to bat with far more freedom, go harder and attack earlier, if the top order has made a rapid start batting first or broken the back of a chase. In Roy's absence, England simply weren't doing that.
He had his luck today when India failed to review after he gloved Hardik Pandya's bouncer behind down the legside when he was on just 21. However, his response summed up what Roy - and England - are all about as he charged down the track and smashed the next ball for six over long off.
Chest puffed out, no backward steps.
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