England should give misfiring opener Jason Roy one more game to find the blistering form he is capable of before looking to Jonny Bairstow for the Champions Trophy knockout stage should his struggles continue.
I’m a massive fan of Jason and we all know what a class player he is when he’s hitting that ball sweetly – one of the best in the world – but having watched him in this tournament he looks frustrated and seems to have veered away from his natural game.
Against New Zealand on Tuesday, he appeared to be trying to build an innings, which is not his natural game at all. He’s used to going hard from ball one, which is very difficult to do when you’re low on confidence.
It is the first time I have seen my former Surrey team-mate look nervous in an England shirt and he hasn’t got the smile on his face which he usually has. He knows he’s under pressure and 47 runs from his last seven one-day international innings tells its own story.
Hopefully it will be a good pitch for England’s clash at Edgbaston on Saturday and Jason will take a shine to Australia’s seam bowlers – he likes pace on the ball – and get a few away off the middle of the bat early on. It’s like a golf swing, he just needs to find his rhythm.
The 26-year-old hasn’t had that of late and he’s in a slump, which happens to every player at some stage or another. When it does, all players put far too much pressure on themselves and try too hard to make things happen and force the issue.
Jason’s cause is not helped by Bairstow banging at the door and being in the sort of form which is deserving of a place in the side. If Bairstow hadn’t staked such a huge claim to play then the pressure probably wouldn’t be as high as England are still making progress.
Fellow opener Alex Hales underwent a similar downturn in 2015 but he wasn’t under the microscope as much because there was nobody threatening to take his place in the team. He eventually got a century against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and away he went. He has scored 95 and 56 in the Champions Trophy so far.
Like I said, I would give Jason one more match and then re-evaluate. If he is dropped, it’s not quite as simple as just bringing Bairstow in as other questions arise such as where does he bat? Does he open, does Moeen Ali open, does everyone move up one?
It could create uncertainty and, after all, England are still winning matches, so the thought process of selectors may be to stick with a winning formula and hope Jason comes good sooner rather than later, which I’m sure he will.
It’s a shame that this form issue is dominating a lot of conversations as the rest of the team is playing well. It’s been suggested that England’s bowling unit lacks some firepower but so far, so good. All is going to plan.
Looking ahead to Saturday, England have already qualified for the semi-finals but as skipper Eoin Morgan has said, it’s crucial they beat Australia to maintain a 100 per cent record in the competition but also to eliminate a dangerous opponent.
Because their two clashes so far have been affected by rain, Australia are looking vulnerable. But they are still a very dangerous outfit and, I believe, England’s main rivals.
If England can knock them out then they will take forward a massive amount of confidence. It would also potentially mean lighter opposition in the final, so it’s a big game and one which could have huge ramifications for England in the rest of the tournament.
Here’s hoping for an England victory and Jason Roy’s return to form.