They call Jason Roy ‘Mini KP’ at The Oval and he showed just why at his home ground on Wednesday evening with a display of virtuoso batting brilliance that inspired England to a series-clinching victory in the fourth one-day international against Sri Lanka.
Roy’s magnificent 162 helped this resurgent team led by Eoin Morgan chase down a Duckworth-Lewis adjusted target of 308 with 11 balls to spare in South London in a match that was reduced to 42 overs per side thanks to yet more rain in this wet and miserable English summer.
The 25-year-old has inevitably been compared to Kevin Pietersen thanks not only to his eye-catching devil-may-care attitude at the crease but also because the pair have South African roots, both shared a dressing-room together in Surrey and also the same sports management company.
England’s 2005 Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan alluded to the similarities in his role as a summariser for the BBC’s Test Match Special during this match, commenting that Roy’s swagger at the crease reminded him of his former team-mate and also his “arrogance” as a batsman “but in a good way”.
Of course, England are keen to play down any comparisons between Roy and the man they blacklisted from their set-up in the wake of the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash in Australia.
Yet the 25-year-old Durban-born batsman achieved something Pietersen never did in 136 one-day internationals by passing 150.
Roy very nearly eclipsed another South African-born batsman – also a Durban native – by drawing to within five runs of the 167 Robin Smith made against Australia at Edgbaston in 1993 – still the highest individual ODI score by an England player.
The comparisons with Pietersen and Smith’s record are interesting talking points, yet both of those men very much belong to England’s failed past in one-day cricket while Roy represents a bright future for this team.
Morgan’s side now take an unassailable 2-0 lead into Saturday’s series finale against the Sri Lankans in Cardiff and in Roy they have a batsman who not only backed up his unbeaten 112 in the second ODI in Birmingham last Friday but who now averages 141 in this series and 40 overall in his 24-match career.
"A lot of hard work has gone into it, and to see the rewards is incredibly special,” said Roy.
"At my home ground, in a big game, to win a series, these are things are incredibly important to me - so I’m pretty stoked. What a day and an incredible win for the boys and to back up my performance at Edgbaston is extremely special.”
For those not familiar with Roy’s backstory, I’ll give you a brief précis – and be warned his journey to the England team is markedly different from Pietersen’s.
Roy’s accent is definitely more South African than South London but the Surrey batsman did actually move to Britain with his parents when he was 10 in 2001. This is not a player, like Pietersen, who made a calculated decision to try his luck in the UK to better his career.
In fact, Roy attended Whitgift School in Croydon – the hometown of the now former England football manager Roy Hodgson, who resigned this week following his team’s humiliating, tournament-ending defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.
From there he was put through the system at Surrey and made his senior debut at the age of 17 in England’s domestic Twenty20 competition.
Roy’s star has risen ever since and from making his international T20 debut against India at Edgbaston in the northern summer of 2014, he was handed his ODI debut the following year after England’s calamitous first-round exit from the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
It’s been a rapid rise. Yet Roy is not afraid of the comparisons with Pietersen, positively namechecking his then Surrey team-mate when I interviewed him shortly before his England debut in 2014.
“It’s a great comparison,” said Roy. “He’s an unbelievable player, ridiculous to watch, played copious amounts of games for England and any team he’s played for he’s given it his all.
“That’s pretty cool to be compared to him and it’s a great accolade. Some people say ‘You’re like Kevin Pietersen’. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a very good thing because he’s a game-changer and a game winner.”
In the same interview, Roy was also keen to stress how influential a star-studded Surrey dressing-room that has also included South African titans Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, plus Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan, had been to his development.
“It was incredible dressing-room to be in with KP and Graeme Smith, especially as a young batsman,” he said. “To speak to them with no fear because they’re in your dressing-room was amazing.
“When Graeme went we got Amla so that was even better. The amount I’ve learned from those guys, even Dilshan when he came over as well, was awesome.
“They were all open to any enquiries, any questions, anything you wanted to know they’d let you know their opinion.”
Whatever Roy took on board from those star names has helped him get where is today. And after the England football team’s latest humiliation, we can at least say we have one Roy who knows what he’s doing at international level.