Tag: Alex Hales (page 2 of 2)

Alex Hales isn’t very warm


By all accounts, the door to Test selection has now been opened by Alex Hales. Barring injury he will take his place in the England side that will face South Africa on Boxing Day. He could do with warming up a bit though.

England’s first warm-up match, against a South African Invitational “XI”, saw him start lukewarm before cooling to tepid. Or maybe he started tepid and cooled to lukewarm. We’re not sure. He ended up at the cooler one though – eight off 42 balls (second innings) being limper than eight off 10 balls (first innings).

There are two ways of looking at this. Firstly, has Hales come down with a case of the Jos Buttlers even before making his Test debut?

The self-aware, ruminative part of Jos Buttler’s brain increasingly paralysed him in Test cricket over the last year, denying him the ability to play the natural game which apparently didn’t come quite as naturally to him as everyone seemed to believe. Is Hales suffering from something similar?

We always maintain that there is no pressure quite so intense as that which is self-applied. If Alex Hales considers Test cricket to be the real deal and his major ambition, maybe he’s already feeling the weight of his own expectations. Perhaps this pair of fat ladies foreshadows Test subsidence to come.

The second way of looking at things is of course that warm-up matches are a meaningless load of balls and so performances within them are also a meaningless load of balls. This does of course beg the question why they are played at all, but who’s to say that isn’t a perfectly valid question to ask?

Hotwiring Jonny Bairstow

Despite recent media coverage, Alex Hales is not actually in competition with Moeen Ali. He is, we’d guess, competing with Jonny Bairstow. Alastair Cook wants plenty of bowlers in 40 degree heat which means Adil Rashid will finally get to play a Test in the UAE. In which case who misses out? Well if Hales opens, it’s probably Jonny Bairstow.

With all the talk about restructuring county cricket, we’ve seen a lot of ‘don’t mess with the County Championship – it’s what’s produced all of these England players’ type articles. It’s not a bad competition and indeed it has given rise to some good players. The thing is, it’s impossible to know how good they would have been had they been playing in a different competition.

It’s striking that England aren’t entirely sold on Jonny Bairstow and we’re sure that must say something about domestic cricket. We wouldn’t be surprised if he were left out of the first Test team and yet he averaged 92.33 with five hundreds in the Championship this year.

If a 26-year-old scores a thousand runs in your domestic competition and scores at 4.5 runs an over, shouldn’t you be desperately trying to force him into your team, rather than allowing him to slip out of it? If Bairstow were a car, England would drive around in him but would routinely leave him unlocked and not shed too many tears if he were stolen.

Alex Hales makes use of the door handle


They always talk about players ‘knocking on the door’ when it comes to England selection. Then, when a player makes a really compelling case, they say he pretty much knocked the door down. Alex Hales seems inclined to take an even more straightforward route into the team. He’s just going to push down the handle, quietly open the door, walk in and sit down.

Yorkshire are a few players down, but their bowling attack is still strong enough to have secured a 10-wicket win last week, dismissing Worcestershire for an even hundred in the second innings. As such, Alex Hales’ 222 off 250 balls is what you might, with a degree of understatement, call a tidy effort.

At 393-7, it’ll also be interesting to see how the rest of this match pans out – partly because Hales is still in, but also to see what kind of a pitch it is. This has all the hallmarks of being one of those innings people mistakenly refer to in years to come as being pivotal in a player’s career.

The truth is, Hales has only been reduced to the rudeness of an uninvited door open after a couple of years of tap-tappery. This innings is the act of a frustrated man who is leaving nothing to chance.

Last year, we already knew that Hales could hit hundreds in T20 internationals. Perhaps concerned by this seemingly one-dimensional CV, he took steps to fill in the sizeable gaps. He made three hundreds in the 50-over competition and finished the tournament with an average of 76.80. He also made three Championship hundreds and averaged 50.21 (in the first division).

Since then, England have picked and unpicked him like poor stitching. He’s pissed off. He said as much in an interview last week.

So what can he do? Well, he can score a hundred against the county champions and then, once he’s done that, he can just carry on, scoring more and more runs with cold relentlessness. When you’ve already travelled across the threshold in both directions, you realise that doors are meant to be opened.

Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook

There are a lot of optimists in the world and the problem with positive people is that they assume that positivity itself is some sort of positive.

It’s all well and good swanning about thinking everything will work out, but really you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. The truth is things don’t always work out.

Positivity can be good. It can be necessary. But it can also lead you to do stupid things.

Let’s have some examples

At one extreme, imagine you’ve just bought a bag of beef-flavoured Space Raiders. It requires minimal positivity to look on the bright side and assume that the things inside the bag are baked corn snacks and therefore edible. Result. You get to eat some food.

An extreme pessimist, however, might perceive the same items as being made from some sort of radioactive compacted dust laced with strychnine. Boo. No food for you.

Now imagine you’re standing on a high bridge across a canyon. You close your eyes and consider stepping off the side. Most people would assume that they would fall to their death were they to do that. An extreme optimist might think that a giant bird would just happen to fly underneath their foot at the exact moment they stepped out and hover there, providing support. Then another bird for their next step and another and another until they reach safety.

Now these are two extremes, but positivity does slowly morph into delusion the further you move towards each end of the continuum. Somewhere between them there’s a grey area. For example, a recurring scenario in cricket is when a team has to choose between a familiar older player and a less familiar younger player.

Shades of grey

The point about shades is that you’re talking about gradation, which is why we’ve just resisted the obvious temptation to include a number with that subheading. We’ll go with ‘infinite’ if it makes you any happier.

No two cricketing selection decisions are the same, but with really close calls it always boils down to how much of an optimist you are – how you perceive the absent data. You know what’s happened, but what will happen next?

Let’s get specific. Ian Bell will open the batting for England tonight. Alex Hales will not. Is that the right decision or the wrong decision?

Cricket - Yorkshire Bank 40 - Kent Spitfires v Notts Outlaws - The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, England

Bell v Hales

Bell is familiar. Perhaps over-familiar would be a better way of putting it. For better or worse, we don’t feel like there’s anything left to learn about him.

Alex Hales is newer. He had a strong domestic season and has a really good record in Twenty20 internationals, but as a 50-over opener, he’s more of an unknown quantity.

We can compare stats and technique and approach, but a large part of the argument seems to hinge on what Hales might do. If you’re inherently positive, you’ll say Hales might win England matches with aggressive hundreds. If you’re of a more negative mindset, you’ll say he might rack up a great string of single-figure scores.

So Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook then?

Correct. Chances are, on some level you’re aware of this fact, but we thought we’d provide a reminder. People talked so much about how bad it was to have Bell and Cook in the same top three that the two batsmen have almost become interchangeable when we talk about one-day cricket.

Hales, in contrast, was fortunate enough to be kept out of the side by Cook and has therefore become symbolic of the brave new Cook-less world in which everyone hits sixes from ball one.

But Ian Bell is not Alastair Cook and Alex Hales is not the anti-Alastair Cook. (Nor is Cook the purest form of one-day failure imaginable, for that matter – but that’s something it’s not worth getting into right now.)

Ian Bell is Ian Bell

If we’re looking at their technical suitability for one-day cricket, Alastair Cook has three shots and Ian Bell has about 42.

If we’re looking at the stats, Cook clearly ground to a halt, but Bell has been surprisingly effective for a while now. In 2012 – the year that England became the top-ranked one-day international nation – he averaged 54.90 and scored at a strike-rate of 82.68. In 2013, he averaged 43.00 and scored at 76.87. In 2014, he averaged 34.21 and scored at 90.89.

You can look at those figures two ways. You can say he simply doesn’t score quickly enough for the modern day and age, or you can say that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone in your batting line-up to perform like David Warner.

Warner, for the record, averages 31.40 in one-dayers with a strike-rate of 83.50.

But Hales *might* win matches for England

It’s true. He might. It really is hard to argue against that, because it’s absolutely true. We’ve even said that Alex Hales and Moeen Ali would make a great one-day opening partnership ourself.

We’re not trying to make a case here. It’s a grey area and that’s really our point. If we have some sort of message, it’s that the ‘better the devil you know’ argument is rarely a crowd-pleaser, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

Why Alex Hales and Moeen Ali would make a great one-day opening partnership

This is going to come across as a gossamer-thinly-veiled plea for Alastair Cook to be given the old heave-ho, but it’s not. It’s literally just about Hales and Ali – Cook’s merely collateral damage. In fact let’s say he can bat at three. There’s still a large part of us that would really like him to turn things around because it would be funny.

So Hales and Ali then – why would they make such a good combination at the top of the order? There are four main reasons. Several are mundane and obvious, but taken together they make a decent case.

First of all, both are capable of scoring hundreds at quicker than a run a ball. Like pads and a bat, that ability is something a one-day opener simply has to have these days.

Second of all, both are proper batsmen. Ali has a spectacularly good Test hundred to his name while Hales has recently taken to mincing attacks in first-class matches as well as one-dayers. Unlike some one-day openers (read ‘outright sloggers’) they can cope with the new ball – or, more accurately in 50-over cricket, new balls.

Thirdly, one of them’s right-handed and one of them’s wrong-handed. Always good in a partnership.

Finally, they compliment each other well. “Nice beard,” says Hales. “Nice eyebrows,” says Ali.

No, wait, we mean they complement each other well. Speaking after his hundred the other day, Ali said he was basically happiest rushing to 50 and that he was still working out how best to play after that. In contrast, Hales is a surprisingly slow starter. A lot of pundits see him hitting sixes and note that he’s an opener and claim he’ll ‘get England off to a fast start’ but actually that’s typical scorecard-reading false-assumptionery. It’s not the way he plays. For Nottinghamshire, Michael Lumb provides the impetus and then Hales takes over once he’s set.

Unlike Moeen Ali, Hales becomes ever-more bludgeonny as his innings progresses. Fast-starting Ali will lift the pressure while Hales is getting his eye in and then, if they can stay together, Hales will return the favour when Ali slows.

Alex Hales gets England’s first T20 hundred – and a surprise win

“It’s all over baby, because this one’s headed to the moon!”

You can always rely on Danny Morrison to deliver fitting commentary on the denouement of a compelling match. A few minutes earlier, he’d used the word ‘whippage’. He was on form.

So was Alex Hales, who hit the first Twenty20 international hundred for England – partially making up for the disappointment of being dismissed for 99 against the West Indies in 2012. Eoin Morgan hit the middle overs sixes and then Ravi Bopara somehow hit boundaries off Lasith Malinga at the death to keep things manageable. Hales did the rest.

A large proportion of ‘the rest’ came in one Ajantha Mendis over, which went for 25, but there was more to the innings than that. Chasing down 190 is no mean feat.

Other than that, England were dreadful, dropping as many catches as they took and one more than the umpires thought they took – third umpire, Steve Davis, brushing the vodka bottles asides to mash the ‘not out’ button with his face in response to a Mahela Jayawardene golden duck.

England probably have to beat South Africa to qualify for the semi-finals. And the Netherlands.

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