BY MARCUS HOOK
Trevor Bayliss and Alec Stewart have both endorsed Surrey batsman Jason Roy’s credentials as a Test player in waiting.
England have not hit upon a settled top order for some time; a headache that was accentuated by Sir Alastair Cook’s decision to retire from international cricket last summer.
Roy goes into this Thursday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia top of England’s batting averages for the tournament, with 341 runs at an average or 68.20.
But England head coach Bayliss has said he also sees the Surrey man as a valid option given that Rory Burns, Joe Denly and Keaton Jennings failed to make the most of their chances in Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Roy, 28, averages 38.38 with the bat in first-class cricket matches and he has become an integral part of England’s white-ball teams batting at the top of the order.
When asked if he thought Roy could make the transition to Test cricket, Bayliss said: “I think so. Whether it’s at the top of the order or top three, there’s no secret in Test cricket we’ve been looking for a solid combination.
“Jason has had success at international cricket and that goes a long way to showing he is able to handle the pressure. It’s a definite option and one we have spoken about around the selection table for the last 12 months or so.”
England name their line-up next week for the four-day Test match against Ireland at the end of the month.
Surrey’s director of Alec Stewart said: “I’ll be staggered if he doesn’t make the squad.
“I expect him to be one of the top three batsmen in the Ashes when that starts. It’ll be a challenge for him because he hasn’t played Test cricket before but he will have the confidence knowing that he can succeed at international level.
“He takes the attack to the opposition, but he plays in a very sensible way People say he’s a great striker of the ball; he just looks to hit boundaries. That’s true, but he’s also an intelligent cricketer.
“He’s matured out of sight, he plays in a responsible manner while still looking to take the bowling on. If he spends time at the crease, more times than not England win.”
For his part, Roy has said: “Playing Test cricket and playing in the Ashes has always been an ambition. When you’re young you don’t understand a huge amount about batting, you just go out there and bat – now I feel like I know myself as a batsman.
“Most of my batting in first-class cricket has been at four, five or six but I played at three twice last year so I’m happy wherever they want to put me. They can put me at nine, although I can’t bowl a few overs!
“I’ve played a lot of white-ball games for England, so if I get the chance that should hold me in good stead. Everyone knows what I am about, so if I get caught at fourth slip driving at a ball that a traditional Test cricketer wouldn’t drive at, then people hopefully wouldn’t be too outraged.”
OVER OF STATS
Ball 1 – Mark Stoneman’s century against Yorkshire at Scarborough was only the fifth for Surrey in this season’s County Championship and the first for the Oval outfit for six weeks.
Ball 2 – All three of Surrey’s defeats in the championship have come away from the Oval when they’ve been batting last.
Ball 3 – In contrast, Surrey’s four-day record batting fourth at the Oval is pretty unshakeable. Since 2010, just one of their seven losses in SE11 have come with the hosts failing to hold on for a draw in their second dig – when Middlesex won by 146 runs in 2013.
Ball 4 – That was the occasion Ollie Rayner – who is currently in action for Kent against Surrey – claimed match-figures of 15-118 with his off-spin. With three catches to boot, Rayner had a hand in 18 of the 20 Surrey wickets to fall in that contest.
Ball 5 – Rayner is one of only four bowlers to have taken 15 or more wickets against Surrey in a County Championship match. The others are Sam Hargreave, who returned match figures of 15-76 for Warwickshire at the Oval in 1903, George Dennett (15-195) for Gloucestershire at Bristol in 1913 and Charlie Parker (15-91), also for Glos, at Cheltenham in 1930.
Ball 6 – The Oval has witnessed just one of Surrey’s last 13 championship losses – Essex’s one-wicket victory at the end of last season, which was the first over Surrey in SE11 since Derbyshire’s eight-wicket win back in September 2014.