Match-winner Alex Hales accepts he could be dropped
Hales’ England place is highly vulnerable to the possible return of the fit-again Ben Stokes.
Alex Hales knows he may be about to go from match-winner to instant fall-guy if England bring Ben Stokes back from injury for their Vitality IT20 series decider.
The hosts have Hales to thank that they still have a shot at victory, rather than trying to avoid a whitewash, against India on Sunday in Bristol after his unbeaten 58 levelled the score at 1-1.
Hales held his nerve, and unleashed the power when 12 runs were still needed from the final over, hitting the first ball for six into Cardiff’s River Taff off Bhuvneshwar Kumar as England got home narrowly.
Yet if Stokes does return this weekend – and it is understood it may be as a specialist batsman rather than all-rounder as England exercise caution after his hamstring injury – Hales is one of only two plausible options to make way.
The other is the out-of-sorts Joe Root, who has fallen twice in succession to India’s wrist-spinners for an aggregate nine runs.
England’s Test captain received such a ringing endorsement, however, from acting coach Paul Farbrace after victory over Australia at Edgbaston last month that it seemed then his position was perenially safe.
Hales, meanwhile, admits he has no easy solution – other than keep trying to win matches.
“I have no answer,” he said.
“I’m doing all I can to score runs and keep putting pressure on the guys who know they’re playing.
“If it’s me that’s left out, you look at the guys who are playing ahead of me, and what can you do?”
Hales’ half-century at Sophia Gardens was a jarring and most welcome contrast to his struggles in Manchester three days earlier when England faltered so badly to the googlies and variations of Kuldeep Yadav.
There, he made a tortured eight from 18 balls before being bowled round his legs trying to sweep the left-armer.
Asked how satisfying it therefore was to put things right, he said: “Very – it’s right up there.
“The game at Manchester was a very, very bad day at the office personally – and as a team, we didn’t quite get going.
“But it was brilliant to bounce back in a must-win game … (it) shows a lot of character as a team.”
Hales made sure he was his own worst critic between matches, and also got to work in the nets with England’s computerised bowling simulator Merlyn.
“I spoke to myself – quite harshly,” he said.
“I’d never faced (Kuldeep) before, and I didn’t know much about him.
“Maybe I just went out in Manchester without a plan.
“I watched a bit more footage, worked with Merlyn and looked to play a bit more off the back foot and waited for him to float one up to hit a bit straighter, rather than cross bat like my dismissal the other night.
“It’s about having a bit more of a plan and more composure.”
Eoin Morgan’s men found major collective improvement against Kuldeep, who followed his five for 24 with nought for 34 second time round.
Hales is adamant England’s problem was not in reading his variations but simply putting the right shot into practice.
“We picked him the other night (at Old Trafford) – but I (just) don’t think we played him very well,” he said.
“You can see it out of his hand, which way it’s spinning, but the other night we were maybe a bit rusty and had never played against him.
“Now we have had good look, had a good plan, and it’s important to take that into Sunday and keep on top of him.”