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It seems only natural that Usman Khawaja was the centre of attention following his brilliant match saving 141 in the first test against Sri Lanka. However, his innings has made it easy to overlook the performance of debutant Aaron Finch at the top of the order.
Traditionally pigeonholed as a limited overs specialist, Finch looked assured and well organised in making 62 and 49. While neither score is a match winning effort, it showed an ability to adapt to foreign conditions and bat patiently that many people didn’t think Finch possessed.
His first innings 62 was ground out over 161 balls, a far cry from his T20 International strike rate of 161.5, setting up a first wicket stand of 142. His performance raises important questions about whether teams should be more open minded about selecting so-called limited overs specialists in the longest format.
Kevin Pietersen recently spoke up about Jason Roy’s credentials as a potential test opener, citing both his attitude and high-quality white ball performances, while his Surrey colleague Kumar Sangakkara has constantly raved about his ability.
So why not give him a go?
We have seen some scintillating displays from Roy in recent times, particularly his 180 against Australia at the MCG in January this year, and an ODI average of 38.21 represents a solid return (Finch’s is 38.19). His first-class average is also solid at 38.42.
Roy has shown he has all the attributes of a high-class batsman in the white ball game, but this is also where the problem lies. His lack of first-class cricket is the only reason he has not been selected in an England test squad, only playing 2 four-day games for Surrey during 2018, both in September as the season drew to a close.
This frustrating issue is that this lack of game time is by no means Roy’s fault, his status as a key player in England’s white ball sides often coincides with the county season. In addition, the England management encouraged his participation in the IPL, which clashes with the beginning of the county championship.
By narrow-mindedly looking at first-class records we miss the point of the matter, Roy is a player who can perform against any opposition. Why is it important for him to play four-day cricket for Surrey if we know he can make 180 against Australia?
The Problems of International Scheduling
The hectic scheduling of international cricket makes it impossible for players such as Roy and Finch to make regular appearances in first-class cricket, but this shouldn’t affect their chances of playing test cricket as it often does.
Just this summer, we have seen Adil Rashid called up to the England test squad without even having a red ball contract with Yorkshire. In the past, David Warner even played a T20 for Australia without playing a first-class match, before developing into a world-class test opener.
With growing amounts of one day and T20 cricket, too many players are placed in the category of white ball specialists, and by ignoring Roy England may well be missing the answer to their batting problems right under their nose.
Australia’s selection of Finch already looks a shrewd move, and should he continue to score runs it will only fuel talk of Roy’s test potential. He’s proven his class for England on a number of occasions, and his lack of red ball cricket shouldn’t deter England’s selectors if our batsmen continue to struggle in Sri Lanka.
For now, Roy has been included in the England Lions squad to tour the UAE in November, providing a chance to score runs in a four-day match against Pakistan A. In the meantime, the selectors should take note of Finch’s success, and keep Jason Roy high on the agenda for future test series.