Jason Roy has set the scene for England’s Ashes-flavoured World Cup semi-final, suggesting Australia might be suffering from fragile confidence after their defeat to South Africa.
The old rivals meet in the final four at Edgbaston on Thursday but would have been kept apart had Australia won their last group game against the Proteas.
Instead they lost by 10 runs to already eliminated opponents, setting up a mouth-watering knockout clash in Birmingham.
“It should be a great game. I think them losing to South Africa might have knocked their confidence a bit,” said Roy, before acknowledging that England’s loss to Australia in the group stage might help balance the books.
“When you get to the semi-final stage any team you come up against is going to be a tough ask, mentally and physically. They hammered us at Lord’s but who knows what it is going to bring?
“As exciting as it is, we’ve got to stay as relaxed as we can, understanding that it is a World Cup semi-final that doesn’t come around very often and that we’ve been working towards this for years.”
Roy admitted that he feared for his own part in the tournament after tearing a hamstring while fielding against the West Indies, eventually missing three games.
England lost two of those to take them to the brink of elimination but the restoration of Roy’s dominant opening partnership with Jonny Bairstow has culminated in a sharp upturn in fortunes.
The last time England reached a global semi-final, 2017’s Champions Trophy defeat to Pakistan, Roy was dropped for the match after a poor run of form.
That is now long behind him and the 28-year-old could not bring himself to consider he would miss out for a second time on fitness grounds.
“I’ll be honest, there was a bit of a fear I might be out, there was a bit of a scare there initially but I needed to stay positive around the group,” he said.
“I was staying around the lads and travelling with them so I had to keep giving out positive vibes and try to help where I can.
“But, having been dropped in the Champions Trophy and then working my backside off to get here for the World Cup, and being in good form only to then get injured, I was like ‘give me a break!’
“I thought I was having no luck so that was frustrating and a bit hard to deal with, but I kept things relaxed, worked hard and thankfully I got back and was able to play.
“I’m right where I wanted to be, both mentally and physically. This is the reward for the hard work and sacrifices we all make. I didn’t put myself in the IPL auction, I did everything I possibly could to get myself to this point I’m at now.”
Roy is increasingly hopeful that Thursday’s game is just the latest step in a battle that lasts all summer against the Australians.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss talked up the Surrey man’s prospects of making the move to Test cricket and Roy is willing to take on the poisoned chalice at opener, despite playing most of his red-ball games in the middle order.
“There has been a bit of chat and you can’t avoid it, but playing Test cricket and playing in the Ashes has been an ambition of mine for years,” he said.
“Most of my batting in first-class cricket has been at four, five or six but I played at three twice last year so I’m happy wherever they want to put me. They can put me at nine if they want, although I can’t bowl a few overs!
“I think I’m better off at the top of the order and then I can give it a go from there.
“I’ve played a lot of white ball games for England so if I get a chance then that should hold me in good stead.
“Everyone knows what I’m about so if I get caught at fourth slip driving at a ball that maybe a ‘traditional’ Test cricketer wouldn’t drive at, then people hopefully won’t be too outraged by that.”