Expected to open the batting after his dominance in that position during the World Cup, Jason Roy now has the opportunity to prove that he is fluent across each one of the game’s three formats. But having not played a first-class game in eight months, and not opened in a red ball game for six years, it may be understandable for Test captain Joe Root to be rather tentative with the selection, although he certainly would never admit to it.
This week’s test against Ireland offers up the perfect opportunity to study an experimental batting line-up, with Roy surely the prime focus. Roy evidently has the ability and knowhow to thrive in one-day competitions, as one of the orchestrators of English cricket’s greatest achievements, but the test against Ireland will challenge the other half of his psyche that is Test cricket.
Roy’s return was instrumental in clawing England back from the brink of elimination during the World Cup. His extraordinary performances against India and Australia, and multiple moments of vertiginous skill, will mean very few people will doubt his obvious talent. Those performances have shown that he has the patience and nerve to perform under heavy pressure; he just needs to ensure his ability against the red ball is as competent as that with the white. Roy may have already secured himself a legacy at the World Cup, now he will be batting for cricketing supremacy.
Joe Denly must want nothing more to than to prove his worth against Ireland. Having been left out of the World Cup squad at the very last minute for Liam Dawson, Denly will be hoping to reaffirm his England ambitions alongside a new look top order. It was his poor showing against Pakistan in the ODI series before the World Cup that ultimately convinced Eoin Morgan to drop him for the tournament, but his recent test record shows he can still be a valuable asset for Joe Root’s side.
His last four test matches for Kent have seen him score 468 runs while his recent Test record with England should provide a semblance of assurance against a newly confirmed Test side in Ireland. Not that the Irish will be underestimated, especially not by Denly, whose experience may be his only chance at retaining his place amongst the top order come The Ashes. However, at 33 years old, Denly will be looking over his shoulder with 23-year-old Dom Sibley looking for a call up, who has proven he can bat for long periods of play with Warwickshire this season.
Not so much a player that must prove his worth, but one that will be looking to make himself impossible to ignore. After impressing mightily in the recent England Lions test against the touring Australia XI, taking six wickets for 95 runs, and his destructive heroics against India last summer, Surrey’s all-rounder will be trying to keep his momentum going in order to secure a place on test cricket’s biggest stage.
At just 21 years old, Curran will be part of a six-man bowling line-up for England, alongside Jimmy Anderson, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad. And with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood expected to come into the side against the Aussies in early August, Curran must produce his very best if he is to squirm his way into England’s squad. Curran is aware of his need to perform. Speaking to the media last week, he said: ‘’I need to look ahead and find performances that will beat the Australians in the Ashes. The team is pretty exciting, there will be some great cricket played. I'm really excited to see what this summer holds.’’
Jack Leach has been forced to be patient so far in his England test career. Left out of the side’s last tour in the West Indies for Adil Rashid, and with only four England caps to his name, Leach will be hoping he can put in a performance reminiscent of the one against the Sri Lankans at the end of 2018, in which he took 18 wickets in three Test matches.
However, with Trevor Bayliss hinting that Rashid could come out of red ball retirement to play in this Ashes, and with Moeen Alli firmly England’s first-choice spinner, Leach may have to produce a performance better than the one against Sri Lanka if he is to be selected. Leach’s England appearances have so far been very mercurial. Even his very best may not be enough to warrant him a place in the squad for The Ashes.
If Jason Roy lives up to the lofty expectations he put on himself after the World Cup, he will need a regular batting partner alongside him to open for England, and who better to do that than his childhood friend, best man at his wedding, and Surrey team-mate Rory Burns?
During his playing days, Alistair Cook was never really able to find a concrete batting partner that is so crucial in the longer forms of the game, which perhaps stifled much of England’s progress during that period. With the role of Roy’s perpetual partner still up for grabs, Burns will fancy his chances as England’s opening batter, despite his recent underwhelming performances. Scoring more first class runs than anyone else in 2018, Burns is a proven quantity. He is the most likely to cement himself in the test squad alongside England’s World Cup heroes and is now presented with the chance to form a long lasting effective partnership with one of his closest friends. England have a historic and deciduous opening batsman conundrum, and Burns could just be the man to solve it.
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