Jos Buttler threw his weight behind Jason Roy despite a prolonged dip in form that has led to scrutiny of the opener’s position just months before England defend their 50-over World Cup crown.
Roy was axed ahead of England’s T20 World Cup winning campaign following a lean run and is without an international half-century in 14 innings, while he has averaged 12.5 in eight knocks this month in the SA20.
A career one-day international average of just under 40 with a strike-rate in excess of 100 marks him out as one of England’s best ever 50-over batters and he was instrumental in their World Cup triumph four years ago.
He will open the innings alongside Dawid Malan as part of a new-look top-order in Friday’s first ODI against South Africa in Bloemfontein, with Ben Duckett at three and the debuting Harry Brook at four.
While the likes of Phil Salt and Will Jacks are putting pressure on Roy to find some form before the next World Cup in India in the autumn, Buttler is confident it is not too far away.
“Jason has an outstanding record over a long period of time,” said England’s white-ball captain. “He knows he’s not performing as well as he’d like to at the minute, he knows that more than anyone.
“But we are backing him. He has been a really influential figure in white-ball cricket, in the 50-over team he has been exceptional for a long period of time.
“We think he has loads to offer and are excited to see him get back to his best.”
With regulars Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root unavailable and Eoin Morgan and, for now, Ben Stokes retired from ODIs, Duckett and Brook can make an impact before linking up with the Test team in New Zealand.
A bulging schedule means the pair will be unavailable for an ODI series against Bangladesh in March, which represents England’s final 50-over assignment before September, the month before the World Cup starts.
“There are certain players who definitely have the ability to play all three formats, but that’s kind of impossible because of the schedules,” said Buttler on the eve of the first of three ODIs against South Africa.
“It’s really important we expose Duckett and Brook here and give them opportunity. We’ve got to use these games here and in Bangladesh to experiment a bit, expose people to playing international cricket.”
Buttler, who revealed Jofra Archer will make his England comeback on Friday, insisted his side is not a closed shop and urged hopefuls to push their World Cup claims in any way they can.
“There’s two big names in Morgan and Stokes who are not around any more so big holes to fill,” said Buttler.
“If people are performing really well and banging the door down…that’s wherever they are playing their cricket. It doesn’t have to be here in ODIs for England.
“You can demand a place in that squad wherever you’re playing, and that competition for places is something that’s driven standards for a long time, and I want that to continue.”
Stokes announced his retirement from ODIs last year, citing competing demands on his schedule, but England white-ball head coach Matthew Mott this week revealed “the door is always open” for a return.
And while England are not counting on a comeback from the talismanic all-rounder who was player of the match in the 2019 World Cup final, Buttler was in agreement with Mott.
“If he wants to change his decision, of course he’d be welcomed back with open arms,” added Buttler.
“But we are very much at the moment planning as if he he won’t be available and giving guys opportunities in those areas to stake their claim.”
Archer is expected to make his return despite missing Thursday’s final training session – where they were joined by Kevin Pietersen – with England confirming there were no fresh fitness fears.
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