Roy’s 79-ball century was his 11th in ODIs but his first against a Full Member nation since the 2019 World Cup, and though it was not enough to secure victory for England in the opening match of their tour of South Africa, it may well have transformed his prospects of helping to defend their 50-over title in India later this year.
He struck 11 fours and four sixes all told, as he passed fifty in an England shirt for the first time in 15 innings, dating back to the tour of the Netherlands in June 2022. With the teams back in action on Sunday for the second ODI, also at Bloemfontein, Roy admitted that his personal satisfaction, for once, far outweighed the frustration of defeat.
“I’m feeling very good,” he said on the morning after the match. “I actually didn’t sleep that well – I had about five hours sleep. I was a bit overcome with a few emotions and stuff like that, it’s been a turbulent few months. I woke up really well, though, it was the best five hours’ sleep I’ve had.
“Yeah, it was a little bit of anger around it all, just because I set everything to the back of my mind and locked a few things away in a cupboard and went out and played the way I have played throughout my career and which I haven’t played in the last couple [of years]. I was frustrated I hadn’t got to that mindset earlier but it was a very nice feeling.”
Unlike their build-up to the 2019 World Cup, England have limited opportunities to fine-tune their squad for India. The forthcoming tour of Bangladesh offers their last chance for 50-over practice until September, when New Zealand and Ireland visit for three ODIs each.
Roy, however, doesn’t consider his return to form against South Africa to be any guarantee of selection for the World Cup.
“No, not at all, absolutely not, I don’t see it that way,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of games in my career, been around for a while now and even after a bad year you can get forgotten quite quickly. It’s a case of keeping pushing, keeping this environment going in this culture we have in the team because it’s a huge year ahead for us in 50-over cricket.
“Hopefully [I will play the World Cup] but it’s one step at a time. It’s one game into a series, one game into the year in international cricket, so I’ve got to keep scoring runs and just building this team to the place where we were at back in 2019.
“It’s been a horrible year – it’s not how you start the year, it’s how you finish it. I think I started last year pretty nicely and then things went downhill from there. I’ve just got to stay positive and keep pushing.”
Roy had given little indication of a return to form during his stint in the SA20 this month, having managed a top-score of 33 in eight appearances for Paarl Royals. However, with his England captain Jos Buttler alongside him at the franchise, Roy said that the support of his team-mate had been crucial in keeping a level head.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Jos on and off the field, we speak very honestly with each other and spending the last couple of weeks with each other at the SA20 league has helped,” he said. “I had a lot of thoughts and opinions and how I felt my last year had gone, and those conversations were great and it allowed me to free myself up for this innings I just played.”