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March 9, 2019

Jason Roy in line to replace Keaton Jennings as England opener for Ashes

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Jason Roy is in line to open the batting in this year’s Ashes series against Australia after England finally lost patience with Keaton Jennings.

Roy has been a regular in England’s one-day team during their rise to No 1 in the world over the past four years and the 28-year-old has proved he has the temperament to thrive on the international stage.

England on Friday signalled they are taking a new direction with the Test team when they sacked Mark Ramprakash as the batting coach. He will be replaced by Graham Thorpe, who is the lead batting coach in charge of England’s white-ball teams.

While Rory Burns is expected to retain his place for the Ashes, Observer Sportunderstands Jennings, who averages 25.19 in 17 Tests, will be jettisoned, with Roy set to be given his chance for the one-off four-day Test against Ireland at Lord’s in July that acts as a warm-up for the Ashes series that follows.

Roy, who averaged 65.33 in first-class cricket last summer, is missing England’s T20 series in the West Indies after being given leave to attend the birth of his first child.

Gareth Batty, Roy’s teammate at Surrey, has no doubt he has the ability to make the opening position in England’s Test team his own. “He keeps it very simple,” said Batty. “His back-lift, technique, everything is perfect for Test cricket. He just needs to keep his balance, not get too funky and play every ball on its merits. He’s almost too good at times.

Batty added: “Absolutely he has the temperament to be a Test player and it’s not just the temperament. He’s got the skill sets. His skill sets are through the roof. I even think it’s not as big a gamble as when Australia picked David Warner. People will use that comparison.

“I think that’s wrong. Jason’s record in first-class cricket at Surrey is very, very good. I know it’s chalk and cheese, the standard maybe, but he’s able to take the gears down. His output in four-day cricket has been magnificent and we have messed him around shunting him around the order. He’s just a very, very unique talent that doesn’t come around very often.

“He’s just a wonderful, wonderful player and he’s getting better and better. He’s not hit his sweet spot for me just yet. He is maybe a year off that and, when he gets there, watch out. It could be all forms.”

Sam Billings, meanwhile, has backed Joe Root to cement his place in England’s Twenty20 team after the Test captain made a half-century in the series-sealing win against West Indies in St Kitts on Friday.

Root, not a regular in England’s T20 team, had lobbied hard to be given a chance in this three-match series rather than being rested ahead of a busy summer containing the World Cup and Ashes series. And he impressed in scoring 55 from 40 balls as England routed West Indies for 45 after they had set the hosts 183 to win.

Billings, who top-scored with 87, said in the buildup to Sunday’s third and final T20: “I’m really pleased for Joe. I think in the past he has been similar to me in this format of the game, where we have probably both tried too hard to force the issue. But it was great to see him get some runs. There’s no doubt he’s good enough.”

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