JASON ROY scored a brilliant, barnstorming century that could save his career – but England still contrived to lose against South Africa.
Roy plundered 113 from just 91 balls but it was not enough to prevent England collapsing to a 27-run defeat in the opener of a three-match 50-over series.
Kagiso Rabada celebrates after taking the wicket of England’s Jason Roy
England’s Jason Roy acknowledges the crowd as he walks back to the pavilion
It was a collapse of epic proportions after Roy and fellow opener Dawid Malan raced to 146-0 inside 20 overs in pursuit of South Africa’s 298-7.
Fine bowling by white hot speedster Anrich Nortje and burly trundler Sisanda Magala – aided by a string of poor dismissals – turned the match at Bloemfontein on its head.
Roy’s departure to a catch on the boundary was a big moment and half of England’s batsmen departed to flat-footed wafts or mis-cued attempted pull shots.
Ben Duckett, playing his first one-dayers for six years, was caught behind for just three and Harry Brook, another star of England’s Test win in Pakistan in December, was out for a duck on his ODI debut.
Captain Jos Buttler made 36 but England’s chances started to evaporate when he was caught behind. Sam Curran departed in similar fashion.
The final wicket came when No.11 Olly Stone was caught and bowled by left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.
Buttler said: “We played some excellent cricket for the majority of the game. After that opening stand, we should have won.
“We try to play a positive brand of cricket that has served us well. We didn’t quite commit to that. We could have put more pressure back on South Africa’s bowlers.”
Despite England’s defeat, it was still a significant match for Roy, whose desperate recent collapse in form left his position in England’s team hanging by a thread.
He’s already been dumped from England’s World Cup-winning Twenty20 side.
But there can be few doubts now that Roy remains one of England’s first-choice openers at the start of a year in which they defend the 50-over World Cup.
The Surrey slugger was back to his dynamic best with a string of brutal blows that shredded a high-class Proteas attack.
Roy hadn’t reached 50 in any of his previous 14 international innings since scoring a century in Holland last summer.
His demise spread to domestic cricket, too, with dire form for Surrey and the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred. He managed just 100 runs in eight innings in the first phase of the South African T20 tournament.
With Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow – and maybe Ben Stokes if he can be coaxed out of one-day retirement – certain to return to the team and other batsmen such as Phil Salt and Will Jacks pushing for a place, Roy knew he had to deliver.
He let out a thunderous roar when he reached three figures, complete with an expletive for emphasis. And who could blame him for his joy and relief?
The fact is he has an average above 40 and a strike-rate above 100 across his one-day international career.
That’s why England have persisted with him despite a dramatic slump.
Earlier, Jofra Archer struggled for consistency and went for 81 runs in ten overs in his first England match since March 2021. Rassie van der Dussen made 111 for the Proteas with Curran by some distance England’s best bowler, taking 3-35 in nine overs.
Did you miss our previous article...