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.