Roy and Bairstow prove that respect and not friendship is key to partnership

Beating Australia at any time presses the collective pleasure centre of the English but to do so at cricket in a World Cup semi-final brings national rapture.

For the game to be essentially over before England even lost a wicket, following Australia’s dismissal for 223, was down to the ongoing excellence of opening batsmen Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.

Re-united three games ago, after injury had disrupted their partnership, they posted their fourth century opening stand of the tournament and their third in a row.

That is incredible batting which for Roy and Bairstow, or should that be Bairstow and Roy, places them in the pantheon of great England openers like Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Hutton and Washbrook and Cook and Strauss.

Their dynamism, power and consistency at the top of England’s one-day batting order have been the main reason England now find New Zealand standing between them and their first World Cup title when the final is played at Lord’s this Sunday.

Ironically, the opening pair that has outscored them in this tournament were Australia’s Aaron Finch and David Warner, their semi-final opponents.

But England’s opening bowlers, exploiting some early seam movement, ensured they were far from a match for Roy and Bairstow on the day, after Finch fell for a first ball duck and Warner a slightly lengthier nine.

Coaches will tell you that opening pairs ideally come as right and left-hand combinations to mess with the bowlers lines.

Roy and Bairstow are both right-handers but they mess with bowlers’ lengths instead - Roy being savage on anything wide of off-stump and Bairstow brutal with balls near leg-stump.

Their collective power, though, means they also scramble bowlers minds which enables them to exude a fear factor among opponents more commonly attributed to aggressive fast bowlers than batsmen.

There was certainly a tentativeness about the opening salvo by Australia’s bowlers, which failed to find the same seam movement as England’s had earlier in the day.

Mitchell Starc, the leading bowler in this World Cup by some distance with 27 victims, was given some harsh treatment.

Although not exclusively the doing of Roy and Bairstow, the 70 runs he conceded from nine overs were his second worst figures of the tournament.

The pair played some superb shots, Bairstow square driving his first ball from Jason Behrendorf for four, Roy flicking Starc off his toes for a six that sailed over long leg’s head. Both strokes were typical of their executors; Bairstow’s strong bottom hand providing crunching heft while Roy’s hands, so fast in the way that he breaks his wrists, that he'd just as easily be at home hitting top-spin passes at Wimbledon.

There was more. Roy’s demolition of Steve Smith, as Finch, Australia’s captain, gambled that his predecessor’s wrist-spin might conjure a wicket, was simply brutal. Three sixes in three successive balls meant the experiment was short-lived.

To have achieved so much greatness you’d assume Roy and Bairstow were close off the field as well as on it, but that is not the case.

One of the assumptions people tend to make about players in team sports is that they must all like each other otherwise the team project falls apart. Not true.

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Respect is the most important thing and Bairstow and Roy clearly have that for each others talent, their deeds not being done through gritted teeth. But as for close mates, that is clearly for others.

Interestingly, their dismissals may have reflected this, at least partially. Bairstow was lbw to Starc to one whose only doubt was whether or not it pitched outside leg-stump after umpire Kumar Dharmasena gave him out.

Normally, someone in that situation would ask his partner where they thought a review was worth taking but while Bairstow glanced briefly in Roy’s direction, he did not wait for his answer before calling for Hawkeye to adjudicate, which it did to his detriment.

That seemingly impetuous act meant England had used their single review so when Roy was given out by Dharmasena 14 balls later, for 85, there was no review left to reprieve him.

On Sunday, he and Bairstow get another chance to put a bowling attack to put to the sword, that of New Zealand, once more. Do that and England will have their best chance yet of winning a World Cup.

© ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2019