Sri Lanka didn’t start with spin against England’s openers in the abandoned first ODI in Dambulla, but even if they had, Jason Roy feels he would have been ready.
Throwing a spinner the new ball has long been a tried-and-tested Sri Lankan mode of attack, particularly when teams from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or England are in town. In fact, on England’s last tour in 2014, Sri Lanka had deployed the offspin of Tillakaratne Dilshan against England’s openers – a move that brought significant dividends.
And it might just have made some sense against Roy – a batsman who before the first ODI, averaged a mammoth 65.25 against seam bowlers in Asia, compared to 35.20 against spinners on the continent. But instead Sri Lanka opted for a more conventional double-seam opening combination, and only brought on allsorts offspinner Akila Dananjaya after Lasith Malinga had started leaking runs.
Roy didn’t exactly pass his first spin test in Sri Lanka. He scored two singles off the first three balls he had faced against Dananjaya, before he misread an offbreak and miscued an aggressive shot high into the air, leaving mid-off with a straightforward catch. Despite that, he said he would be unfazed if Sri Lanka began targeting him with spin early in the innings through the remainder of the series.
“It is something we have been working on in the nets – the first thing I face is spin so I am ready for whatever they throw at me to be honest,” Roy said. “It’s not anything new. Other teams have tried to do that in the past, it’s the way they game is.
“In the Powerplay, bowling spin is quite a risky thing. I know I got out to a spinner in the Powerplay but it’s a pretty risky technique, especially if the ball might be swinging a touch for the seamers.”
One challenge Roy had not faced before, however, was facing Malinga’s round-arm action, though in this test he did excel He scored 13 off the 13 deliveries he faced from Malinga, with 12 off those coming in boundaries. He was almost fooled by one of Malinga’s slower balls, but managed to react quickly enough to the lack of pace, and got enough bat on the ball to send it skidding to the fine leg boundary.
“He’s very different. I’ve only faced him once before but he doesn’t give you much angle to work with so you a have got to be set pretty early and wait for his bad ones,” Roy said. “He almost did me with his slowie but we’ll see – it is a long series. I’ll probably do some work against the sidearm to try and combat that lack of angle. We’re used to bowlers bowling wide of the crease to give you that angle but he doesn’t give you a huge amount.”
Though it’s true that Roy has been much better against pace than spin in Asia, his record on the continent overall is actually very good. In fact, his average of 46.10 is significantly higher than his average of 40.25 at home. But despite that good record, Roy’s conversion rate of four fifties to one hundred across 10 innings is something that he feels needs improvement.
“Before in the subcontinent I have got 70, 80 and 90 and got out. Getting some scores in the subcontinent will put me in good stead for the next few years. In this series it’s about batting as long as possible, learning different techniques, and learning different ways of going about my batting once I’m in.”