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Beyond Roy: Six other players who could open the batting for England in T20Is

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

Jason Roy’s spot in England’s first choice T20I line-up is under scrutiny after a below par home summer of T20I cricket.

Roy averaged 12.66 with a strike-rate of 77.55 in T20I cricket this summer and has started The Hundred with scores of 0 & 10, with England white-ball coach Matthew Mott refusing to rule out the prospect of changing England’s first choice top seven in the run up to this year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

England are spoilt for choice when it comes to prospective white-ball openers; here are six players who could come in to partner Buttler at the top of the order should England seek to move beyond Roy for the time being.

Ben Stokes

Despite not playing a T20I since March 2021, Stokes remains available for England in the format. Stokes has never opened the batting for England in T20I cricket but there is a suspicion that it may be the role that he is best suited to. Although a fine striker of the ball, he is not the fastest starter and his record opening in domestic T20 cricket is superb, albeit from a reasonably small sample size; Stokes averages 39.4 with a strike-rate of 139.9 opening the batting in T20 cricket.

Jonny Bairstow

Bairstow has made the No. 4 position his own but like Stokes, he is arguably better suited to opening. A move up top would also have the additional benefit of potentially facilitating Harry Brook’s introduction into the team. Brook has enjoyed a breakout year or so in red- and white-ball cricket and was one of the players of the tournament in this year’s Pakistan Super League. Shifting Bairstow up to the top of the order is one route to incorporating him in the XI.

Phil Salt

Perhaps the most likely beneficiary if England look to go beyond Roy. Salt played six white-ball games for England this summer, coming into the ODI side following Ben Stokes’ retirement from the format. He bats in a similar way to Roy – he attacks from ball one and is someone who seeks to maximise the benefits that the early fielding restrictions give the batting side. That said, his T20 record outside of the T20 Blast isn’t hugely impressive.

James Vince

At 31, Vince hasn’t played for England since enjoying a decent, if unspectacular, T20I series in West Indies earlier this year, where he struck at 143.02 per 100 balls, albeit at an average of just 25. He is, though, one of the in-form white-ball batters in the country. He was the leading run-scorer in this year’s T20 Blast and has started The Hundred in a similar vein, hitting 71 not out on the competition’s opening night.

Will Smeed

Only five men have played T20I for England at the age of 20 or under. Should Smeed – who is yet to make his first-class debut – play for England before the T20 World Cup he would be the sixth person on that exclusive list, joining Tom Banton, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Mason Crane.

Smeed has an excellent T20 record. He averages just under 30 in T20s with a strike rate of 143.21 and has big league experience, hitting 97 and 99 in two of his six Quetta Gladiators appearances in the Pakistan Super League earlier this year.

…Alex Hales?

It’s been three years since Hales last played for England and with a change in leadership, is it possible that he returns to the set-up? Given his absence from the first squads of the Mott-Buttler regime, it looks unlikely but he is still mounting a compelling case for a recall from a purely cricketing point of view.

His T20I record at the top of the order is better than Roy’s – Hales averages 30.51 compared to Roy’s 24.15 while the pair have a nearly identical strike rate and the Nottinghamshire opener is another in red hot form. His 2022 T20 Blast strike rate was over 190 and he has started The Hundred well, winning the Player of the Match award for his 58 against Birmingham Phoenix in his first appearance of the competition.

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