Jason Roy has backed England’s batsmen to learn quickly from a disappointing display in the second T20I, and get to grips with the slow, low surfaces in Ahmedabad that may prove to be a major factor in their T20 World Cup campaign in India later this year.
Roy top-scored for England for the second match in a row in Sunday’s seven-wicket defeat, but his 46 from 35 balls proved to be a laboured affair. In particular he struggled with his timing off the legspin of Yuzvendra Chahal, as he failed to make contact with the first four of his six attempted reverse sweeps.
However, Roy’s dismissal to Washington Sundar in the 12th over of the match exposed England’s middle order to the full vagaries of a two-paced wicket, and a succession of batsmen came out swinging but failed to capitalise on England’s solid platform of 91 for 2 after 11 overs.
Ben Stokes epitomised England’s difficulties in the closing overs, as he was becalmed in the death overs by a diet of cutters from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur, who had him caught at long-on for 24 from 27 balls with two balls of the innings remaining.
The defeat was only England’s third in their past 12 T20Is dating back to February 2020, but Roy insisted that the series – now locked at 1-1 with three to play, after England’s eight-wicket win in the opening fixture – remains very much up for grabs.
“I’m very confident we can bounce back,” he said. “It’s easier said than done, India are a class team. But the way we started the series in that first game was more comprehensive than what they gave to us on Sunday, so I think going into the third game we’re still full of confidence.
“We found the last eight overs of our batting [the last game] a little bit difficult but I think the boys will bounce back – we’re a fast-learning side so I don’t think there’s been a huge amount of wind out of our sails to be honest.”
On the contrary, Roy himself has plenty to be pleased about already, after putting a torrid 2020 behind him with a pair of promising performances to launch the series.
By his own admission, life in England’s bio-secure bubble got to Roy last summer, as he struggled for form against Ireland and Australia with a total of 49 runs in six innings, either side of a lengthy lay-off for a side strain. He then had his enthusiasm for touring life dented further by the protocol breaches in South Africa that caused the cancellation of the ODI leg of England’s tour in December.
Though he clarified an initial suggestion that he had had to “rekindle his love” of cricket during the winter, he admitted that the return of crowds to stadiums had been a major factor in his upswing in form – first at the BBL, where his haul of 355 runs in 12 innings helped Perth Scorchers reach the final, and then against India, where a half-capacity crowd of 66,532 witnessed the second fixture at Ahmedabad’s new stadium – although the remainder of the series will now be staged behind closed doors, due to a surge of Covid cases in Gujarat.
“I never stopped loving the game, but with no crowds around, and everything that is going on being so much bigger than the game, it just puts loads of stuff into perspective,” he said. “Then when your own work isn’t going quite as well as you want it to, it can get really on top of you.
“I hadn’t played enough cricket, that was the simple thing, so I needed to play in the Big Bash,” he added. “I knew it was a long tournament, but then the moment I got there for the first game, I had 20-odd people watching me in the nets, and I had a sense of an adrenalin rush and belonging again.
“It was the most incredible feeling. I never fell out of love with the game but playing in front of crowds makes you realise that they mean a huge amount of us as sportsmen.”
The next challenge for Roy is to adapt his technique to suit the surfaces at Ahmedabad, and turn his glimmer of form into the sort of buccaneering knock that his opposite number, Ishan Kishan, served up on debut for India on Sunday. To do that, he says, he will continue to take on the bowlers whom he believes will suit his leg-dominant style, even though one of them, the offspinner Washington Sundar, got the better of him last time out.
“I’m still looking for that big score,” Roy said. “Those forties are great and look good on the scoreboard but to get 180s, 190s and very competitive totals in T20, you need someone to go on and get a big score. So as happy as I am there’s still a lot to improve on.
“What I learned was just to make sure I was staying on my shots a little bit more,” he added. “I was a bit out of position with a couple of my reverse-sweeps, and then rectified that during my innings.
“But it’s a pitch where you’ve got to pick your bowler. Unfortunately the bowler I picked got me out. If that over had gone for a few runs, it would have swayed the momentum of our innings quite a bit.
“It was a calculated risk but didn’t go my way,” he added. “If I hadn’t got out, then a big score was probably around the corner. That’s just the way T20 goes. If you live by the sword, you’ve got to be willing to die by it.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket