Two years ago, Jason Roy began the summer envisaging a leading role in England’s 50-over global trophy. These hopes disintegrated in a meek run of 51 runs in eight innings, Roy’s worst in an England shirt, which culminated in being dropped for England’s defeat in the Champions Trophy semi-final.
Now, Roy is trying again. “I think my form since that competition and coming back into the team has shown where I’ve changed my game a bit, mentally and physically,” he said. “I was in a bad place before the Champions Trophy, got dropped, rightly so and then brought back into the team and adapted from there.”
If confronted by such a run of form again, “I’d probably be a bit more relaxed about it,” Roy explained. “Identify where I’m going wrong quicker. I was in that frame of mind I wasn’t able to identify where I was going wrong. Now I know where I was going wrong.”
Not that there have been many failings to deconstruct recently. Since regaining his place in the aftermath of the incident here in Bristol two years ago, Roy is averaging 47.62, compared with 34.00 beforehand, even while his strike rate has vaulted upwards.
This second age of Roy’s ODI career has been marked by his newfound aptitude converting brisk scores into decisive ones. His reaction to being dismissed for 87 in the second ODI in Southampton betrayed as much.
“I was absolutely livid with myself because that’s what I’ve changed most in the last two and a half years: my 60s and 70s have become 100s. I was fuming. That kind of shows where I’m at mentally with my cricket.”
Roy’s innings on Saturday was his first in international cricket for almost three months because of the birth of his daughter and a back injury. While he did not begin as fluently as normal, that he was still able to make a significant contribution bodes well. “It’s good to get a score when I'm feeling rusty to be honest. It's good signs so shows I'm in a pretty good state mentally.”
When he was set, Roy unfurled an extraordinary flat-batted scythe over extra cover for six from the back foot, likened to a baseball shot. “That's as good as I get,” he laughed. “Instinct came in. I was kind of struggling a little bit and then it was nice to get one out of the sweet spot.”
The opening partnership of 115 in 19 overs continued the outstanding record of Roy and Jonny Bairstow together. In 25 innings opening, they average 60.64. The next highest of any England opening pair to bat together in at least 20 innings is 43.88 by Ian Bell and Alastair Cook. Bell and Cook scored at 5.03 an over; Bairstow and Roy score at 7.05 an over - an emblem of the revolution in England’s ODI cricket. “We're very happy with where we're at,” Roy said. “Nice and relaxed, go through the motions out there and enjoy each other's company. So long may it continue.”
The exploratory nature of this series will continue in Bristol, with Jos Buttler in line to be rested. The absence of Adil Rashid - who has been given a couple of days off, along with Jofra Archer - ensures that Joe Denly will return. Denly has played just two ODIs since 2009, but is in the preliminary World Cup squad as spare spinner and reserve batsman.
The cocktail of Bristol’s flat track, small straight boundaries and the sumptuous day expected will test how viable Denly’s leg spin as a frontline bowling option really is. The Bristol crowd - there are still some tickets available on the gate - could well enjoy an encore of the 734 runs scored in the second ODI at the Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile there are no long-term concerns about James Anderson, who had to leave the field after sustaining a blow to the knee which forced him to leave the field during Lancashire’s Royal London Cup semi-final defeat by Hampshire on Sunday. Anderson will not play in Lancashire’s County Championship game against Northamptonshire which starts on Tuesday, as was agreed before the semi-final, and is expected to be free to return to county cricket shortly.
England: Roy, Bairstow (wk), Vince, Root, Morgan (c), Stokes, Denly, Ali, Woakes, Curran, Plunkett
Pakistan: Iman-ul-Haq, Zaman, Azam, Ali, Sohail, Ahmed (c/wk), Shoaib Malik, Wasim, Ashraf, Ali, Junaid Khan