England v Bangladesh, World Cup 2019, Cardiff June 8, 2019

Jason Roy leads the way as England find their World Cup mojo

A selfless century and another fine stand with Jonny Bairstow gives England an impressive win over tournament bogeymen

If there is one man who embodies the spirit of this England ODI side, it is Jason Roy.

Roy was one of the new breed of fearless batsmen England turned to after the debacle of the last World Cup. He made his debut in their very next game - the rain-ruined match in Ireland - and, although he struggled to make an impact in those early days (he failed to reach 40 in any of his first five innings, all against New Zealand, including a first-baller in his maiden innings), the England management were impressed by his attitude and selflessness. In particular, they noted that he bought into the aggressive ethos and never sought to protect his own figures at the expense of the team. So they stuck with him.

Well, most of the time, anyway. A grim run of form in the English summer of 2017 (at one stage he made just 31 runs in six innings) coincided with Jonny Bairstow's emergence as an opening batsman. As a result, Roy was squeezed out of the side and only won a recall after Alex Hales was deemed unavailable for selection following that infamous night in Bristol in September. His next three innings were 84, 96 and 180. England have never looked back.

The way in which he plays - and the position in which he bats - means some failures are inevitable. But, as he has grown in confidence and experience, he has managed admirable consistency - this was his third century in his last eight ODI innings - without compromising the run-rate at which he scores. In this match he became the quickest England player (in terms of innings) to register nine ODI hundreds (he beat Joe Root's record by one innings) and, since the World Cup, he has scored more runs than any other opening batsman with a strike-rate of 100+ . Tellingly, England have won all nine games in which he has scored a century.

"He just goes on and get big scores," said England's captain, Eoin Morgan. "They can range from 140 to 180 and the rate he can them it at is so difficult to defend. He scores all the way around the ground, he talks really good bowlers down, he hits good balls for boundaries. He's great to have in the side."

The early days of the Roy-Bairstow partnership were characterised by competition. With Hales breathing down their necks in pursuit of a recall, neither man could afford to either fail or, more importantly, be seen to pursue a personal agenda in the hope of securing their own position. As a result, they pushed each other harder - much as England's seamers pushed each other in the months before this squad was selected (and Mark Wood and Jofra Archer may still be pushing each other to bowl quicker right now) - and took their games to new levels.

Watch on Hotstar: Jason Roy's brilliant innings of 153 (India only)

That opening partnership is fast becoming one of the great strengths of this England side. They have now recorded eight century stands in the 29 innings in which they have opened together - that's double the amount of the next most prolific opening pair over the same period - including the two quickest made since their partnership began in September 2017.

In all, they have scored five of the 10 quickest century opening stands in ODI cricket since that date and averaged 62.62. No opening pair in history - well, no opening pair which has opened together a minimum of 25 times - has put together century stands more regularly than Bairstow and Roy's 3.63 innings average: Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers are second with a century stand every five innings, while Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are next on the list with a century every 6.48 innings. As Morgan has pointed out on several occasions, when you have an opening pair giving you that sort of start, it does not just breed confidence in the home dressing room, it destroys the opposition's.

In this innings, however, it was their restraint that was as impressive as their strokeplay. They took just 15 runs off the first five overs of the innings - England's second slowest start to a home ODI since the last World Cup - but, such is their confidence, there was no sign of panic or anxiety. Instead, they backed themselves to make up time as they grew accustomed to a pitch offering just a little bit of grip, and plundered 52 in the next five overs.

"I don't think it was that easy up front," said Morgan. "I don't think the ball came onto the bat a lot; the first four or five overs proved that. We didn't really go anywhere. I thought Jason and Jonny were outstanding: they assessed the conditions well, waited for the bad ball and waited to impose themselves on the innings."

It's not just their stroke-play or power, either. They are also quick between the wickets, snatching an all-run four in this game and turning singles into twos on several occasions when they sensed Bangladesh fielders on their heels. It renders them a desperately tough proposition for the opposition captain.

England have never had an opening partnership like it. Certainly not in World Cups. This was only the fifth century from an England opener in the tournament's history - only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have recorded fewer centuries from opening batsmen from teams involved in at least 30 games - but already it would be a surprise if that record does not improve further in the coming weeks.

A more selfish player may have sensed an opportunity to become the first England player to make an ODI double-century. But not Roy. He had already thrashed three sixes off the first three balls of a Mehidy Hasan over when he attempted to skip down the pitch and drive a fourth. He knew he wasn't out there to eke out a personal milestone and he knew England had the batting to come that justified a high-risk approach.

It was an important innings and an important stand. England had looked just a little nervous in Nottingham and this was a game they really needed to win against an opposition that had defeated them in both the two previous World Cups. But any nerves that may have lingered in that dressing room were soon allayed by the calm and efficient start provided by Bairstow and Roy. It was a partnership that set the tone for the rest of the game: it was as comfortable a World Cup game has England have enjoyed against a Test side in many, many years.

And talking of the Test side ... it's some way in the distance yet, but the force of Roy's personality at the top of the order, and the depth with which he is able to bat when he gets going, means that Morgan, for one, won't be surprised if his England involvement is expanded after the World Cup is over.

"I do think he could play Test cricket at some stage," he said. "He has every attribute to be a Test cricketer, whether that's now or in a couple of years' time is not for me to decide. He certainly has all the attributes."

With stats input from Shiva Jayararaman

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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