Is Alex Hales England’s Best Ever ODI Opener?

Ask 100 people who they think England’s best ever opener has been in one day cricket and there’s a good chance you’ll hear the names Marcus Trescothick, Graham Gooch, Andrew Strauss and Nick Knight.

Another Warwickshire man, Ian Bell, will likely get some support too – and all are worthy of mention, absolutely, but England’s finest opener in limited overs cricket might well be starring us in the face: Alexander Daniel Hales

Following Thursday’s Champions Trophy tournament opener against Bangladesh, Hales now averages 40.53 (second among England players with a minimum of 20 innings as an opener) with a strike rate of 97.30 (second behind team mates Jason Roy and Moeen Ali).

The 28-year-old also has five hundreds (joint third, despite playing considerably less innings than those around him) and nine half centuries from his 42 innings at the top of the England order.

Whilst some extrapolation is required, these numbers compare (very) well to the names mentioned at the top of this article, notably the man most often nominated as the standard-bearer in this debate, Marcus Trescothick.

Trescothick scored 4,335 runs in 122 ODI innings at an average of 37.37 as an England opener with 12 centuries, 21 half centuries and a strike rate of 85.21.

Whilst one could (successfully) argue Trescothick was a more technically gifted and more elegant player, Hales has gone on to establish himself as a force in one day cricket in an era when opposing teams scrutinise each other more than ever in the search for a competitive advantage.

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In the Test arena, it was something which cost Hales – unable to sufficiently reconcile his natural game with the required changes in technique to succeed in the longer format; a tale which may be familiar to some Notts fans.

But in limited overs cricket he has found a way to succeed.

His 95 against Bangladesh also displayed a selflessness which can occasionally be lacking as a milestone approaches – whilst others might have been tempted to become more cautious as they passed 90, in search of that magical three figures, Hales continued to attack, ultimately caught by Sunzamul Islam off the bowling of Sabbir Rahman, in order to keep up the pace as England became the first side to ever successfully chase down more than 300 in a Champions Trophy game.

It is easy to be flippant about Hales, to claim his sample size is not large enough or allow Test failing to colour ODI success in a different light – but when does a sample size become big enough? And aren’t we, as a cricketing nation, finally past the idea that Test and ODI ability are one and the same?

The reality is, Hales has established himself as a key cog in an England one day team which is now among the best in the world against an increasing number of competitive nations – there are few free passes, shoddy bowling attacks or lax fielders out there now as the game continues to move forward.

As much as it’s tempting to let nostalgia influence us, sometimes what’s right in front of us is the correct answer.


About Rob

Software engineer by day, Elite League Media man by night, Rob also blogs about cricket for One Stump Short, hockey for In Goal Magazine and video games for Outpost Delta as well as hosting the One Stump Short Podcast.

Posted on June 2, 2017, in England, International Cricket, One Day Internationals and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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