When Alex Hales came into this side he had under his belt a sizeable reputation in international T20 cricket, as well as domestic form that many could only dream about. Just four ODIs into his fledgling 50-over career and the Nottinghamshire opener is learning just how hard it is to establish yourself in the longer forms of the game. Having started the series solidly, the Indian attack have learnt a lesson about bowling to Hales and by tightening their line to him – now operating on a top of off-stump line with zero width, Hales has struggled for runs in the last couple of matches. Having made 40 and 42 at Cardiff and Nottingham respectively, Hales has accumulated just 10 runs between Edgbaston and Headingley which is credit to the Indian bowlers and backroom staff. Hales will need to learn quickly that you can’t be too one-dimensional in this game and you also have to adapt to different bowling plans.
England started pro-actively in the first 10 overs but once again lost wickets at important times. Hales tried pulling a ball that wasn’t short enough and spooned a catch to mid-wicket, before England’s new number three Moeen Ali started brightly in his eight-ball cameo but played one too many attacking shot and was caught deep for just nine. Alastair Cook and Joe Root started to rebuild before the captain top-edged a sweep to be out for 46 as spin entered the attack. Eoin Morgan never really got going and Ravi Ashwin tied him knots before being stumped for 14. Root, though, stayed strong. He played with a patience and calm ahead of his relative youth and mixed attack and defence effortlessly, playing the anchor role that has long been asked for by Cook at the top of the innings. The difference is Root has the ability to catch up on his strike-rate in way his skipper struggles to. Root could be 40 from 60 ball but finish on a run a ball century as he proved today. He was aided brilliantly by the dynamism of Jos Buttler, whose enterprising innings of 49 took the pressure off Root at the other end and allowed the Yorkshireman to bat confidently through to his century, finally perishing for 113 from 108 balls.
It is amazing what having a few extra runs can do for a bowler’s confidence. Having to go out and defend a score well below par puts a bowler under pressure from the off, but give players with the skills that James Anderson and Steven Finn possess and you automatically have a pair of more confident bowlers. They kept the pressure on from the off with a wicket in the first over to set the tone for the England bowling effort. It also has the knock-on effect of the fielders having their tails up and looking sharp with plenty of energy. This is turn adds to the pressure on the Indian batsmen who despite the series being well and truly dead and buried, will not have wanted to lower their performance against a side devoid of confidence. But lower it they did as England kept the pressure on throughout to stem the flow of runs with regular wickets to finally register a limited overs win.
MORE: The latest football news
MORE: The latest tennis news