England's winning start to the Cricket World Cup was rooted in their best fielding performance in four years, with Ben Stokes’ jaw-dropping catch just the pick of an all-round display that delighted Trevor Bayliss and his coaching staff.
The tournament hosts went in to Thursday’s 104-run victory over South Africa heralded for their star-studded batting line-up, but although Jason Roy, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan added half-centuries to Stokes’ top score of 89, their total of 311-8 felt vulnerable.
That was until Stokes changed the game with his stunning one-handed take to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo, leaving those inside The Oval stunned and turning the game into England’s favour, but Roy has revealed that their complete performance in the field was the equivalent of a 60-run advantage, which turned an average score into a very defendable one.
“As a collective it was very good, said Roy, whose partnership with Root after Jonny Bairstow’s two-ball duck got England back on track. “We pride ourselves on our fielding and we have been disappointed quite a lot with our fielding over the last year. We've been incredible with the bat and ball but our fielding has sometimes let us down.
“The boys turned up today and showed what we are about on the big stage and in the big game, so we're really proud.
“It all gets logged and the analyst told us it was our best ever fielding performance. The best ever recorded in the four year period, it was plus 60 runs which is pretty impressive.”
Pushed on how England’s laptop guru Nathan Leamon had worked that out, Roy was just happy to take his word. “I think that's right. He just said that to me in passing, but I don't know how he works it all out.
“You make a stop that might be four, Stokesy's catch maybe that's four or six, whatever. That fielding performance is as good as it gets from us so far.”
Roy may not have been on the receiving end of one of the nine catches taken during South Africa’s innings, but the team have been keen to stress the importance of the collective effort. While Root and Moeen Ali took the pick of the catches, Roy could still play his part in the balls before, helping to build pressure and play a part in the eventual wicket, however small.
“There's a buzz because you know that the next delivery could entail a wicket and if you've saved a one and that guy's on strike and then there's a wicket, you feel like you've played a part in it,” he added.
“It is definitely a way of being in the game because I'm not a bowler, I'm just out there to field, so if I don't do so well with the bat then I can add to my performance.
“I got a fifty and I would have liked to go on, but if I've saved 20 runs in the field then that is like a 70 run contribution.”
Roy sat out Friday’s team golf day as Bayliss afforded his side a day of relaxation, but the Surrey opener stressed his troublesome back was fine and the decision was merely to preserve his fitness. England will be relishing Monday’s second match, given the way Pakistan collapsed to 105 all-out in their seven-wicket defeat by the West Indies. With the home support behind them and a Trent Bridge pitch that should favour England’s batting-heavy line-up, Roy is expecting more of the same.
“It was very, very special,” he said. “As good as it gets. I woke up this morning just wanting to win and it was irrelevant how we got there and how it happened during the day. I just wanted the win, so to contribute, to field well for the team to play well and have special moments was brilliant.
“The crowd were incredible too. The home crowd were as good as we hoped so long may that continue as well.”
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