With Jason Roy struggling for form, England face a potentially tricky decision over who to back as Jonny Bairstow’s opening partner in ODIs heading into the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

Roy has already been axed from the T20I side, with England forced into a call as the T20 World Cup was looming. He retained his place at the top of the order for England’s ODI series against Australia, and with good reason. His pedigree in ODIs is greater than in T20Is (an average of 40 compared to 24) and his poor form is less protracted. Roy has gone 12 T20s without reaching 30, a streak which stretches past England’s white-ball summer and back into the T20 Blast. In ODIs, Roy came into the Australia series with an average of 42 in 2022, with a century and a 73 against Netherlands and two 40-plus scores against India and South Africa this summer.

However, scores of six and nought in two innings in Australia have heightened the pressure on the Surrey opener’s shoulders. With England only having, at present, 12 ODIs scheduled ahead of the 2023 Cricket World Cup, following the Australia series, time is running out for Roy to regain form or for England to give their preferred replacement adequate time to bed in.

The players who could replace Roy as an opener in ODIs for England:

Phil Salt

Salt has established himself as England’s white-ball next man in, and with good reason: from 10 ODIs so far, he averages 45 with a strike rate of 132. He is perhaps the closest to Roy in terms of the tone-setting aggression England are keen on, and, at 26, could be a long-term opening option rather than a stop-gap. However, he is yet to fully prove his calibre against the highest echelon of international bowling. A blistering 88 in England’s T20I series win in Pakistan offers hope that he can cut it against the best, but he has struggled in overseas assignments in the Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League.

When Bairstow was ruled out of the T20 World Cup, England were faced with a decision over whether to put their faith in Salt or revert to a tried-and-tested option, and went with the latter. Might they do the same again if Roy’s position becomes untenable?

James Vince

Before Salt, Vince was England’s designated next cab, but lost that status just as it seemed he might be cracking the international code. Up until the end of 2020, Vince averaged 23 in ODIs with a high score of 51, and it appeared his England career may be at an end. This included 40 runs from three innings during the 2019 World Cup, with Roy injured. However, he led the charge in England’s hastily assembled squad for the Pakistan ODIs in 2021, and a 60 in the second ODI against Australia has made it three 50-plus scores in four innings since the start of last year, including a maiden century to seal a whitewash over Pakistan.

Like Salt, the question remains over whether Vince can step up from ‘solid back-up’ to ‘undisputed first-choice’. But with his trophy cabinet ever-expanding and his form seemingly never better, he deserves to be in the conversation.

Dawid Malan

If Salt and Vince need an example, Malan stands out as a player who has gone from fringe to first-choice status through sheer weight of runs, and with a sublime century in the first Australia ODI, to go with a maiden ton against Netherlands earlier this year, he is threatening to do so again. As a player who likes to get set before expanding, Malan as opener would be a departure from England’s preferred method, but England have opted for a marginally more cautious balance in T20Is in the Mott-Buttler era, so it’s not out of the question they could do so again. However, England could prefer to include Malan at No.4, rather than an opener, if he does stay among the runs.

Alex Hales

Hales last played an ODI before the 2019 Cricket World Cup, but his prolonged international exile came to an end ahead of the T20 World Cup, leaving open the possibility of the same in the longer white-ball format. Counting against Hales is his lack of recent non-T20 experience, with his last 50-over game for Notts also coming before the 2019 World Cup. But considering his world-beating exploits before the emergence of Bairstow as an opening star, he is surely a contender to slot back in. And considering England’s backing of him at such short notice before the T20 World Cup, it’s not impossible they could try someone else before reverting to Hales in the lead-up to the competition.

Will Jacks

Jacks is leading the pack of several youngsters hoping to claim a place at the top of England’s order, with the likes of Will Smeed, Jordan Cox and even Zak Crawley in the mix. A memorable hundred in The Hundred demonstrated his ball-striking talents, while a stellar County Championship season earned him a place in England’s Test squad, showing that Jacks can adopt different tempos when required. A 22-ball 40 on T20I debut showed that he wouldn’t be cowed by the top level either. The feeling remains, however, that the 2023 Cricket World Cup might come just too early for Jacks.

The outsiders

Ben Duckett batted in the top three for England in all three of his ODIs in 2016, and surged back into the conversation with a stellar showing in the Pakistan T20Is. However, his sweeping proficiency means that a slot at No.4 is more likely. Harry Brook is yet to make his ODI debut, and is another who is perhaps more suited to the middle order, but if his 2022 is anything like his 2021, England might have to fit him in somewhere. There is also the option of promoting Jos Buttler, who has excelled as an opener in T20Is or Moeen Ali, England’s 2015 Cricket World Cup opener, but these are unlikely routes for England to take.