Home favourite Alex Hales set to miss England’s ODI opener against India
• Ben Stokes expected to replace Hales in Eoin Morgan’s side
Alex Hales has been the driving force behind two world‑record totals at Trent Bridge but, despite an impressive back catalogue on his home ground, he looks set to be dropped for England’s one-day series opener against India on Thursday.
In a move that demonstrates the intense competition for places in Eoin Morgan’s 50-overs side Hales is expected to make way for Ben Stokes, who played in the Twenty20 defeat at Bristol on Sunday and is close to full fitness after a hamstring tear.
It is a harsh, if not unexpected, blow for a batsman who during England’s last outing in Robin Hood country four weeks ago blazed 147 from 92 balls to help post the monstrous 481 for six against Australia, and two years earlier had pummelled Pakistan’s bowlers for 171 runs in the previous men’s ODI record of 444 for three.
But while Hales knows Trent Bridge like the back of his hand, from the bountiful pitch to the quirky dimensions that offer a short hit over extra when batting at the Radcliffe Road End, it appears Morgan is keen to have an additional bowling option and, of course, the extra aggression and dynamism offered by Stokes in the field.
Given No 1 hosts No 2 in the rankings in this three-match series and India’s lineup is also packed with rapacious batsmen – not least their captain, Virat Kohli, who is one-day cricket’s unrivalled best – this desire for reinforcements with the ball is understandable even if Stokes has bowled only two competitive overs since May.
With another run-soaked affair on the banks of the Trent expected, there is an argument that Nottinghamshire’s Hales should still be retained on a horses-for-courses basis regardless, perhaps with a view to repeating such flexibility in the World Cup group stage fixture against Pakistan on this ground next summer.
But then the fall guy in this case would probably be Joe Root. And, though he was shunted down below the blasters at No 7 during the last world record here, the Test captain is still rightly viewed as the linchpin across all surfaces, with England’s rise to the top of the rankings having been built on starting each series with their strongest possible XI.
These are nevertheless interesting times for Root, who on Sunday was the one to make way for Stokes in the T20 side and has only one half-century in six ODI innings this summer. When he spoke on Wednesday before what should be another sell-out occasion, the 27-year-old gave a gimlet-eyed response to questions on the topic.
Should Root be trying to up his power to keep pace with others? “You’ve got to always try to stay true to yourself,” he replied. “There’s always an element of trying to expand your game and develop certain areas but ultimately you have to play the situation laid out in front of you. “ That’s where I’ve been fairly consistent over the last couple of years.It’s been slightly frustrating on occasions [this summer] but when you win 5-0 against Australia you’ve got no complaints. This is another opportunity for us to try and replicate those performances, and another opportunity for me to go out and make some big runs. I’m hungry to do so. I’ve been quite quiet this summer so far but I’ve got that bit between my teeth now and it’s a great chance to go on and do something special.”
While England will welcome back the previously rested Mark Wood – Jake Ball, like Hales, is expected to miss out on his home ground – and the head coach, Trevor Bayliss, will be resuming duties after a break, India’s attack has been depleted by Jasprit Bumrah’s finger injury and Bhuvneshwar Kumar suffering from a stiff back.
Kohli’s trump cards will instead be the wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, with the tourists eyeing a victorious scouting mission before next year’s World Cup and a return to the top of the rankings if they can do so by three games to nil.