Jason Roy will be hoping he can stay in form for the World Cup final. Photo: AP Photo
There is something about South Africans who play for England. Perhaps it’s the fact that when they do well they’re English, and, of course, when the tide turns the local media are quick to remind them of their heritage.

Kevin Pietersen would surely have lots to say about this subject. When he was winning back the Ashes in 2005, and driving England towards their only ICC global trophy to date, the World T20 title in 2010, “KP” was having tea with her Majesty herself.

Later on, when the runs dried up, he was accused of colluding with his South African “friends” by sending unsavoury texts about his English captain Andrew Strauss.

It is unlikely that Jason Roy will be caught doing something similar with the likes of Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada, who he plays with at the Delhi Daredevils, but Roy certainly seems to be very KP-like, apart from both of them being born in KwaZulu-Natal.

Roy has an unashamed strut. It’s that air of confidence that we all knew when we were kids, having seen it while growing up in the opposition team’s best player.

It was the one guy we feared. Not only for the fact that he could smash us around the park, but also because he would not be averse to telling us how he’d gone about it.

At school my nemesis was Jonathan Trott. Strangely enough, he would also go on to be an Ashes hero for England. There’s definitely a pattern developing here, but that’s for another story.

This one is about Roy, for not even Trott had the temerity to convince an umpire in a World Cup semi-final of all matches to question his decision - albeit shocking - via the television officials even though England had already saturated its reviews.

But this is where Roy really separates himself from the rest. Upon being informed that England indeed had no reviews remaining, Roy defiantly stood his ground and got himself involved in an animated “discussion” with South African umpire Marais Erasmus, who had come across from square-leg to escort the England opener off the ground in a courteous manner.

It was an amateur hour at its best, and this from a team that hopes to inspire future generations to take up the “gentleman’s game” should they go on to lift the coveted World Cup trophy at Lord’s tomorrow.

For the past 24 hours I have been asking myself whether the Jason Roy of two years ago would be equally brazen. Roy was, of course, in an entirely different space back then.

The strut had become more of a limp. And it came at the worst possible time. England were hosting the ICC Champions Trophy - just like they are the World Cup now - and were looking at the bullocking opener to set the tone upfront.

They were not expecting the scant return of 51 runs in eight innings, which ultimately saw Roy lose his place for the Cardiff semi-final against Pakistan.

The fact that England stumbled at Sophia Gardens, and had to continue their long wait for a major 50-overs trophy caused Roy to admit later that “I was in a bad place”.

Even the most unabashed hit the deck hard.

What many, though, have not realised is that Roy’s fall from grace coincidentally gave rise to the most destructive opening partnership the ODI format has seen.

It was not by design, and it certainly had Alex Hales’ flirtation with late-night revelry and recreational drugs to thank too, but it was the gap Jonny Bairstow required to move up the order.

Initially it was Bairstow-Hales, but that soon became Roy-Bairstow when the door was opened for the Surrey blaster again.

The pair have not taken a backwards step since. According to Cricinfo, they are the most prolific opening partnership to have added a minimum of 1000 runs, with the Roy-Bairstow combination enjoying the highest average of 67.70. They are also the quickest to accumulate them with the runs coming at 7.11 runs per over - eclipsing New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill (6.59) by some distance.

The duo seem to share not just an insatiable desire to score runs and slaughter bowling attacks, but possess an equal degree of feistiness.

Perhaps Bairstow’s can be attributed to his ginger top, but it was midway through this World Cup that he launched into a full-out attack on the English media - who his good mate Roy once referred to as “getting on my case” - over their desire to see the home team fail.

The spotlight was now firmly on Bairstow. He responded with two consecutive centuries. Nobody likes a loud mouth, but when it’s backed up it’s the stuff of legend. Think Muhammad Ali.

And that’s exactly what Roy has been doing at this World Cup. Not even a hamstring tear could derail his date with destiny. In his absence England lost two matches and were faced with the possibility of being thrown out of their own party.

Upon his return, he blasted 66, 60 and 85 in a World Cup semi-final against Ashes rivals Australia. Equally, England are back to being everyone’s favourite team, darlings of the press, and ultimately champions-elect.

That’s some turnaround.

So, tomorrow at Lord’s, the home of cricket, there will indeed be a South African having a crack at the World Cup title. For Roy’s sake, he better get the party started in a rollicking fashion for it’s a good time to be English right now.


Weekend Argus

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