Hales and Billings have been trying to force their way into the first-choice playing XI. © Getty
England captain Eoin Morgan has confirmed that Alex Hales will bat at number three in the one-off ODI against Scotland on Sunday (June 10), reiterating that the 29-year-old continues to be a big part of England’s plans for the World Cup next year. Hales, marred by loss of form and recurrent injuries, had lost his opening spot to the in-form Jonny Bairstow, who has amassed 804 runs in 16 innings (4 hundreds, 1 fifty) at the top since the start of 2017.
“Alex [Hales] is playing. He will bat at three,” Morgan said. “He did really well in Australia when we were there and then in the deciding game when Jason [Roy] went down in Christchurch in New Zealand. I thought he played exceptionally well.
“There’s huge competition for places in the side and we are spoilt for batsmen.”
That means that Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, who cracked a 60-ball 104 in the last ODI he played, will be the designated openers for England. Morgan also confessed that England have a surplus of batsmen, and that it’s a good thing leading into the World Cup year.
“It’s always difficult. We are spoilt for three keepers. And they are all very good batsmen. Jonny has been in unbelievable form at the top of the order, and Jos is just world class. And Sam [Billings] has been trying to get into the side for the last 2-3 years. He’s been to the IPL and Big Bash, and he’s impressed in both the tournaments.”
Amid cries bemoaning the scheduling of a lone game between the sides, Morgan saw opportunity for both England and Scotland. Morgan argued that the one-match series will come with the necessity to win at all costs for England, which is quite unlike many bilateral games that come with the mundanity of playing for the sake of it.
“It’s really good for us in a way,” Morgan explained. “We go through long periods of time playing bilateral series, and we scream and moan about not being able to play tri-series and must-win games. We will try and replicate that tomorrow.”
Morgan said his side is looking forward to playing a more “professional” Scotland side. “The biggest difference (since the time I started) will probably be the professional nature in which not only Scotland but every other Associate nation go about their business. Having that attitude and practice going into each and every tournament makes a huge difference.”
Scotland heartbreakingly lost a rain-marred game to Windies and bowed out of the ICC World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe earlier this year. Morgan was all praises for Scotland, referencing to how they played on alien slow wickets and stressed on the experience his opponents would have derived from merely participating in the tournament.
“We have watched them play in the qualifying tournament for the 50-over World Cup next year, which was an extremely competitive tournament,” he pointed out. “The way conditions were: wickets were slow, turning quite a lot and were reused throughout the whole tournament. It is tough when you don’t qualify for any tournament. It is something you set out to achieve.
“I don’t think there was a lot between the teams in the tournament, so qualifying was really difficult. It certainly gives Scotland a lot more exposure. The days of not knowing who you are gonna play against are gone. They are an extremely competitive side and we look forward to play them.”
Asked about having just ten teams for the World Cup, the England captain was unsure if having more teams was the way forward. “I still think you need to earn the right to be there,” Morgan said.
“Whether you make more teams, I don’t know if it’s the right answer. If you have more teams in the tournament, then there’s obviously who’s going to be disappointed again. So whether you are trying to please people or develop the game – depends on what your agenda is.”