Brook vs Malan vs Roy - How three into two couldn't go

Dawid Malan pulls through the leg-side
September 18, 2023

It's been one of the toughest selection calls imaginable, but England have opted to axe Jason Roy from their final World Cup squad, after a protracted saga that has dominated the back-end of the international season. Here's how the timeline unfolded.

August 13

Matthew Mott, England's white-ball coach, tells the Mail on Sunday that he hopes to convince Ben Stokes out of ODI retirement: "Jos [Buttler] will probably lead the way on that communication, but Ben's pretty straight with all of us. We will see if he's keen."

August 14

The Telegraph report that Stokes will "make a sensational U-turn" and that he has indicated to England's management that he will be available for the World Cup.

August 15

England's selectors meet in Nottingham, where Buttler is staying ahead of a Hundred fixture. They come up with a 15-man squad for their four-match series against New Zealand, which doubles as their provisional World Cup squad. Jason Roy is pencilled in as Jonny Bairstow's opening partner, with Dawid Malan as the spare batter.

August 16

England announce their squad, with Stokes' return squeezing Harry Brook out. "That's the incredibly tough decision we've had to make," Luke Wright, one of the selectors, says of Brook's omission. "I'm sure he's disappointed but unfortunately in a 15-man squad, someone's going to have to miss out."

August 18

Brook hits 44 off 24 balls for Northern Superchargers in the Hundred, 24 hours after Malan was dropped by Trent Rockets. "Obviously it's disappointing but I can't do anything about it now," Brook says. "You've just got to move on. I'm trying not to think about it anymore."

August 22

Brook hits 105 not out off 42 balls for Superchargers against Welsh Fire, in a team total of 158 for 7. It is the highest individual score of the men's Hundred season, and the fastest century in the tournament's brief history. "I had my gameplan, stuck to it, and thankfully I middled a few," he says.

August 25

Buttler leaves the door open for Brook's return. "There's still a long time before everyone is meant to get on the plane, so we'll wait and see what happens," he says. "We all know Harry's a fantastic player and we saw what he can do the other night. It's not like it's a surprise: we know what a brilliant player he is."

August 27

Roy wins the men's Hundred with Oval Invincibles, but makes his third duck of the season in the final and finishes the tournament with 154 runs in nine innings. "It was a great moment but then you wake up the next day and you're like, 'Sh*t, I've got work to do before the World Cup,'" Roy later tells the Daily Mail.

August 30

England cruise to victory in the first T20I against New Zealand at Chester-le-Street: Malan makes 54 off 42 balls, and Brook ends 43 not out off 27. Asked if he feels under pressure from Brook, Malan says: "I don't know where that comparison's come from… I bat top three and he bats No. 4, 5, 6."

September 1

In the second T20I in Manchester, Malan makes 0 off 4 and Brook whacks 67 off 36, including five fours and five sixes. "Harry played brilliantly," Buttler says. "[There is] a lot of noise around… credit to him for how he's handling it."

September 3

Malan scores 2 off 11 in the third T20I at Edgbaston; Brook makes 8 off 8. The Sunday Times publish an interview with Roy, who admits he is unlikely to play international cricket beyond the World Cup: "It's going to be tough with the 50-over stuff and I'm not in the T20 set-up… do they want to look at the future, which is probably the right thing? Will Jacks is ripe for that job. I'm at ease with it."

September 5

Malan hits 26 off 21 in the final T20I at Trent Bridge, while Brook makes 4 off 8. Speaking before the game, Mott repeatedly stresses that the squad is only "provisional", telling Sky Sports: "What I've been most impressed by is his response since missing out and that's what great players do. There's a lot to play out before we pick that first XI against New Zealand in India and we've always said it's a provisional squad."

September 6

Brook is added to the squad to play New Zealand as batting cover, with Malan's wife expecting a baby and Bairstow sustaining a shoulder niggle. He is also included in a 13-man squad to play Ireland at the end of the month.

September 8

Roy suffers a back spasm in Cardiff on the morning of the first ODI. Malan and Brook open the batting together, putting on 80 in 15 overs. Malan makes 54 off 53, while Brook manages 25 off 41; Liam Livingstone, who would not have played but for Roy's injury, hits his second ODI fifty.

September 10

Malan misses the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl, the day after his son's birth. Brook opens alongside Bairstow and makes 2 off 12, while Roy is not deemed fit enough to return. Livingstone hits his second half-century in three days to secure his World Cup place.

September 13

Roy suffers another back spasm on the morning of the third ODI. He tries hard to shake it off in the warm-ups but is ruled out. Malan rescues England from 13 for 2 at The Oval, hitting 96 off 95 balls and sharing a stand worth 199 with Ben Stokes - whose 182 breaks Roy's record for the highest individual ODI innings by an England batter.

September 15

Roy fails to convince England that he is fit enough to play in the fourth ODI at Lord's. "It's a frustration, and the most frustrated person is Jason," Buttler says. "He is not quite fit to play a game of cricket today." Malan hits a sublime 127 off 114 balls, his fifth ODI hundred in 15 months.

September 17

England name their finalised World Cup squad, with Brook replacing Roy in the only change from the provisional list.

September 18

Wright explains that Malan has leapfrogged Roy as Bairstow's opening partner, and that Brook's versatility and fitness gave him the edge over Roy as the spare batter: "It's been an incredibly tough decision but it shows where we're at in English cricket, that there are so many tough decisions."

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