England vs Bangladesh: Alex Hales set to be snubbed for crucial Cricket World Cup showdown

England, bizarrely, may stay unchanged for the must-win tie with Bangladesh

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The Independent Online

England, bewitched, bothered and bewildered, and only just about making up the numbers at this World Cup, are toying with the idea of sending an unchanged side into their crucial penultimate pool match tonight. The mantra of continuity has been a prized attribute of selection panels in  recent times but this would be one of its more bizarre examples.

Having lost three out of four matches using the same eleven, and being yet again on the brink of early elimination, it would seem the height of misplaced optimism to try it again against Bangladesh. Considering the opposition and the fact that England are still runaway favourites to prevail, it would be to risk opprobrium of the highest order.

Perhaps Eoin Morgan, beleaguered captain of a side which has been hopelessly outclassed, was being coy. Perhaps he is merely the latest in a long, wearisome line of England captains who think that to reveal their team any more than a split second before the toss is tantamount to betraying state secrets.

“It is a big decision to change anyone in the side and it won’t be taken lightly,” Morgan said yesterday. “We are still two days before the game. Making any changes are big decisions. After any other win or loss we do look at the squad and see where we can improve it and guys who can come in and make an impact.”

 

The player most obviously at risk is Gary Ballance, a surprising choice at the start of the tournament considering his lack of cricket in the three weeks before. He has scored 36 runs in four innings.

But after the miserable showing against Bangladesh it is difficult to see why the bowling attack should be retained en bloc, instead of being taken to the chopping block. Only Chris Woakes of the seamers has  approached adequacy, Moeen Ali has been a serviceable spinner. But the whole urgently lacks versatility.

If Alex Hales does not come into the side now, it would difficult to imagine any circumstances in which he might be selected during this tournament. If fault cannot be  admitted now when can it? He has had a slow beginning to his one-day international career but the selectors have been markedly, and strangely, reluctant to pick him.

Hales has been a rampaging international Twenty20 player and a prolific scorer in the longer one-day game at county level. There was a case, as Morgan conceded, for playing him all along.

“The decision we made to put Gary at three was huge decision and there wasn’t very much between them,” he said. “Gary got the nod. It was a feeling at the time and, if you’d gone with Halesy four games ago, a lot of people would agree with me in saying you wouldn’t have been surprised. People can be twice the player when they are not playing, particularly when someone else is not playing well.”

If Hales comes in he will bat at first drop behind Ian Bell and Moeen. He has batted twice there for England, in Sri Lanka late last year, but for Nottinghamshire since 2010. He is by trade, though, a blazing opener.

Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who were supposed to provide the cutting edge after returning from injury, have taken four wickets  between them in four matches. Broad has not take any since the first match against Australia, Anderson’s solitary brace came against Scotland. 

Bangladesh have won two of their three completed matches, against Afghanistan and Scotland, and gained a point from the washout against Australia. England should  be much too strong, although the statistics which play a key role in how they operate as a unit, will tell them that Bangladesh have won two of the most recent three ODIs  between the two countries.

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