Hales named in England squad
6:37pm Monday 18th August 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Alex Hales appears set to become captain Alastair Cook's new opening partner after being named in England's 15-man Royal London Series squad to face India.
Hales, currently in the form of his life, will have to displace Ian Bell at the top of the order if he is to get the chance to carry his brilliant hitting from county limited-overs cricket and Twenty20 for England into the 50-over international arena.
The 25-year-old, uncapped as yet in one-day internationals, joins a squad which will be missing frontline seamer Stuart Broad - due to see a specialist this week to assess what to do about his long-term knee injury - and containing instead a back-in-favour Steven Finn.
Fellow fast bowler James Anderson is included, despite suggestions that he might benefit from a rest after England concluded their sequence of five back-to-back Test matches with a 3-1 Investec Series victory over India only on Sunday.
Hales' inclusion is a tantalising one for those who have championed his cause in recent weeks, while he has been hitting hundred after hundred for England Lions and Nottinghamshire - mostly in white-ball cricket but, on the day the squad was announced, also to clinch a vital county championship match too.
He will not be alone in hoping he can maintain his golden touch.
Hales said: "Following the tons for the Lions last week, at Lord's on Thursday and now today, I feel I'm in the best form of my career - and I hope it continues."
England, meanwhile, must work out whether he is ready to take over from Bell - and if so where that leaves the latter, who is one of six specialist batsmen in their squad.
Cook and Bell both operate at ODI strike rates in the mid to late 70s, while Hales smashes the ball to all parts at 99.77 in List A fixtures.
Coach Peter Moores has made it clear, however, that he is happy with his captain's run rate at the top of the order.
Asked if he was worried about it, he said: "No.
"Alastair's record probably stands up with a lot of openers.
"With the way one-day cricket is going, there is a huge emphasis on the top of the order ... you have to be able to play this, that and the other - and whack the ball.
"With two new balls, two white new balls, you've got to get through - but you've got to score at the right rate.
"So you've got to get a balance of people at the top end - the first half of the game - who score at the right rate.
"The game tends to have two halves - the first 25 overs and the second 25 - and we've got to get that balance right."
England have had to find a balance too between the risk and reward - with a World Cup looming in Australia and New Zealand early next year - of retaining Anderson for this five-match series but sending Broad off to see a specialist.
An England and Wales Cricket Board press release said: "Stuart Broad will miss the series and will have a specialist surgical opinion with regard to his right knee later this week."
National selector James Whitaker explained England's planning process for the world tournament, and intervening assignments.
"With the ICC Cricket World Cup now less than six months away, our focus over the coming months switches to identifying our strongest possible squad for that competition," he said.
"However, this is an important series in its own right, and we have selected 15 players who we believe will perform well against an Indian side with a strong one-day record.
"This series presents an opportunity for players to build on their international and domestic form and demonstrate that they have the ability to win games of cricket for England.
"With plenty of domestic limited-overs cricket still to be played this season and a series against Sri Lanka in November before finalising our World Cup squad, there are still opportunities for us to consider a number of players who have missed out on selection."
Whether that remark is of significant consolation or reassurance to, for example, Ravi Bopara - perhaps the most striking of any omissions - remains to be seen.
Moores hinted before the squad was announced that there might be changes on and off the field after England's narrow defeat against Sri Lanka earlier this summer.
"With the one-day side, the first thing we have to accept is we had the series against Sri Lanka - from which we learned quite a bit," he said.
"We didn't quite look right as a team, so we've got areas where we've got to get better.
"Alastair, as a captain, recognises that.
"He will be driving with that.
"So there is no reason at all why, as a group over seven months, we can't start to move ourselves into a shape that we'll play our one-day cricket, and hope that will be successful in the World Cup."
England squad for one-day international Royal London Series against India, starting on August 25:
AN Cook (captain), MM Ali, JM Anderson, GS Ballance, IR Bell, JC Buttler (wkt), ST Finn, HF Gurney, AD Hales, CJ Jordan, EJG Morgan, JE Root, BA Stokes, JC Tredwell, CR Woakes.