By Matt Somerford
Alex Hales will be given the chance to press for a World Cup place from the top of the order when the Royal London One-Day International Series begins against India at Bristol tomorrow.
Hales is uncapped by his country in 50-over cricket, but has earned his selection on the back of some powerful displays as a Twenty20 opener.
The 25-year-old’s big-hitting talent was reflected when he became the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman last year and this domestic summer he has proved he has the game for the 50-over format too.
Hales is the second-leading runscorer in the Royal London Cup – striking three centuries for Notts Outlaws – and a century for the England Lions against Sri Lanka A earlier this month made it impossible for the selectors to ignore him.
The move is set to provide considerable power at the top of the order and also Hales with the opportunity to show that he can be the man to provide the early attack in the Antipodes at the World Cup.
With Hales alongside him Cook believes the pair can dovetail to give England the fast starts that Australia proved can be so decisive on their home pitches during the 4-1 series defeat last winter.
With Hales’ strong-arm tactics Cook does not think his game needs to alter though and – with top-order centuries so crucial to winning ODIs – thinks it may even give him added breathing space to set up the innings for his side.
“I don’t think it changes my role,” he said.
“The job of the top four or five is to try and score a hundred, and win the game by setting up the game.
“You have to try and do it in your way. I have got to convert starts into scores. That’s the job of an opener.
“When you win one-day matches, it’s a common theme one of the top four or five has scored a hundred.”
Cook is not about to slow down his approach because he has Hales by his side, however, adding: “I still have to strike too – I can’t let Alex do all the scoring.
“Since I have come back into the side, my strike rate hasn’t been bad – it’s at over 80.”
While Hales’ promotion could still be categorised as an experiment – given the fact he is uncapped in the 50-over game – it is seemingly a risk worth taking with the class of Bell lying in wait at three.
“There is a different role for Ian to play,” Cook said.
“But Belly’s a world, world-class player. So I have no doubts he can do that – and also, if we want to change it (back) up at the top of the order, mine and Belly’s partnership has been a good one over the last couple of years.
“It’s nice to know we’ve got different options, and we’ll look at them over the next few months. So that when we come to the World Cup, we’re very clear on what we think our best side will be.”
While England will look to test some options in the lead-up to the World Cup they will counter any experimentation with the desire to win the series.
India have endured a difficult tour so far but are the world champions and beat England in a thrilling Champions Trophy final in Birmingham last summer.
Cook expects the change in format will galvanise Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men with the likes of Virat Kohli – the world’s third-ranked ODI batsman – due to prove their star quality.
“A change of format will obviously do them good,” Cook said.
“It’s not quite the same groundhog day for them, probably.
“We’ve got to remember they’re world champions at 50 overs, so they obviously know what they’re doing and will probably go into this as favourites.
“But if we play well, we’re hard to beat in our conditions.”
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