Less than two months after backing Jason Roy to open the England batting during the Ashes, former England wicket-keeper Alec Stewart has made a U-turn on his stance on the struggling top-order batsman.
Roy was a unanimous choice to open the batting in whites, following a spectacular ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, where his 443 runs at an average of 63.28 and strike-rate of 115.36 had a direct, positive impact on England’s campaign.
However, the 29-year-old has struggled to replicate that form against the swinging red ball, aggregating 57 runs after six Ashes outings. But while he still seems to figure into England’s red-ball plans, a move down the order may be in store, and Stewart backed that change.
"I think we all agree that Jason shouldn’t open," Stewart told Sky Sports. "We all said, 'look he’s had a great World Cup, therefore can we get him in the Test match set-up?'
"We said he’d make mistakes, so if he opens, let’s not go too hard on him if he plays attacking, rash shots because we know that’s going to happen. But once Joe Root said he would go to (number) three, my take was Denly would go up top and Jason Roy would come in at four or five. That, to me, was the sensible way of doing it, but they didn’t.”
Stewart pondered the options in front of England. Swapping Roy for Denly in the order has been suggested by some, but Denly has hardly been successful in his current position, at No.4, which makes it a problematic solution. Apart from his second-innings fifty at Headingley, Denly has had some starts but has not done anything substantial thus far.
Stewart also suggested names such as Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley. Sibley, the 23-year-old Surrey-born batsman, has topped Warwickshire’s run charts in Division One of the County Championship, racking up 949 runs for the season at 55.82, including a career-best of 244. Crawley has likewise been in solid form for Kent, making 716 runs at 37.68.
"So now are they going to flip Denly and Roy?" Stewart asked. "Then you look at Denly. He got stuck in [at Headingley], but he’s also being tested now up top – shoulder to head – and he hasn’t played that particularly well. So if you suddenly say Roy’s not going to play, do you put Denly up and Jason pops down or do you keep Denly where he is, leave Jason out and bring in a Dominic Sibley or a Zak Crawley?
"Dominic Sibley has earned the right through weight of runs in county cricket, but again, you’re going into the unknown because these boys don’t see enough short, fast bowling in county cricket."
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