Hales storm at Trent Bridge…..
England scripted history in the third One-Day International against Australia at Nottingham by recording the highest total of 481 for 6 in 50 overs. No team has ever scored that many runs in the ODI history and by looking at the kind of form England have been in, one wouldn’t be surprised by their performance. Their batsmen went berserk and smashed the inexperienced Australian bowlers all over the park.
Nottingham pitch has a reputation of being flat and assisting the batsmen; Tuesday was no different. Australia won the toss and opted to bowl first. With Billy Stanlake back into the attack, they certainly had a better bowling than the previous game. They were 2-0 down in the five-match series and if anyone had to gamble Australia’s chances of making a comeback then this was the game, they were fighting for survival in the series.
English openers started off on a promising note, scoring runs at a brisk pace. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow showed no mercy whatsoever and launched an attack on Australian bowlers right from the outset at Nottingham. While Roy was unfortunate to be run out on 82, Bairstow continued his assault and scored a scintillating hundred. Hales walked in when the stage was set for a massive English total, but also had the pressure with keeping up with the tempo.
Bairstow was on fire at the other end, the cricketing manual would have suggested Hales to give most of the strike to the maverick wicketkeeper-batsman. But this is not how England or Hales go about their cricket. They play some attacking brand of cricket, and Hales too fired with all cylinders from the other end. He was astute enough to gauge that the Australian bowling didn’t have enough fire and it was time to capitalise on their inexperience.
Hales’ innings was a perfect example of calculated aggression. He is not very used to this number three position in the lineup but made the adjustment quite well this time. Although the bowling attack was weak, but it does demand that kind of brutal hitting in order to score huge. He did not let it go after a fifty or even a hundred for that matter, Hales ensured he made it big and made the most of the solid start.
If Roy and Bairstow won’t get you, then Hales will. The top three inspire confidence and look intimidating on paper. England recorded highest ever ODI total with 481 runs on the board and Hales played a key role with his 147 off 92 deliveries. England beat their own record of 444, which is now the second-best in the list. Hales top-scored in both the games.
Prior to the match, Hales admitted that he needed some big runs under his belt in order to cement his spot in the line-up. He wasn’t having a great run in the series and had just one fifty from last three innings. At first, Bairstow replaced Roy at the top and made an impact by scoring massive runs. Hales initially lost his place after being suspended in the aftermath of the Bristol incident, and Roy was recalled. Since then, Roy has also been very effective at the top and Hales return has only made the race for the openers tighter.
Before this innings, Hales was averaging just 27.11 in nine innings after the Bristol incident and needed big runs under his belt. Prior to the third game, he was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “I’ve got to try and get my place back. I guess now I’m in that position where I’m on the fringes and any chance I can get, it’s up to me to convert big runs and put some pressure on Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.”
Hales also felt that his place will be in jeopardy once all-rounder Ben Stokes is back in the line-up. He said, “Looking at the way things are now, I’m the one who drops out once Stokes comes back. That’s what happened when we went from Australia into the New Zealand series.”
Hales at three gives some solid firepower to England’s top-order. He is the kind of a batsman, who looks to attack and never lets the bowlers settle, which comes handy in white ball cricket. England are filled with talented and stroke-making players, they have the best batting line-up in shorter formats. The likes of Roy, Hales, Bairstow, Buttler, Morgan, Root and Stokes render batting a joy to behold.
England are oozing with confidence at the moment and with every outing growing in stature as a unit. The upcoming World Cup is scheduled to be played in their backyard and this is their golden chance to lift the coveted trophy. They have developed into a formidable unit and played like champions in the recent times. For now, Hales has made his presence unavoidable for the future and with two more games to go, he will look to garner more runs and cement his spot in the line-up. His success at three is also creating a healthy competition for the openers and at the same time providing an extra option for England.