England to open with Jason Roy and use Alex Hales at No 3 as tourists look to restore pride with attacking brand

Jason Roy and Alex Hales are set to be reunited at the top order  Credit: Getty Images 

England’s freewheeling style of one-day cricket will be unleashed on World Cup winners Australia this weekend when the one-day series starts at the MCG as the team looks to restore lost pride.

England will pack their batting on Sunday squeezing both Jason Roy and Alex Hales into the top order. Roy will open with Jonny Bairstow with Hales batting at three, pushing Joe Root down to four and captain Eoin Morgan to five.

Jos Buttler will be nominally positioned at six but in a floating role with the option of batting him higher if the innings needs a lift.

The rejig has been caused by the absence of Stokes and the return of Hales, who was suspended at the end of last summer after both were caught up in the street fight in Bristol.

Roy, who lost his place to Bairstow during the Champions Trophy, filled in for Hales and did well enough to keep his opening slot. It had been thought that Hales might have to wait to earn his place back in the side but England want to pick their best six batsmen and then worry about how they fit them in the order.

As things stand, Root will move from three, where he has batted since the World Cup.

Jason Roy in action during a one-day warm up game against Cricket XI  Credit: Getty Images 

“The way we play we bat quite deep. We play our best six batsman and allrounder if we can and it will be structured like that,” said Morgan.

The final selection call will be over whether to pick two spinners at the MCG. If that happens then Moeen Ali keeps his place, if not he will probably lose out to Tom Curran, the extra seamer, with Adil Rashid now considered the lead spinner.

The shorter format is England’s priority these days and results have reflected that. They have a better record than any other team since the last World Cup winning 34 of 53 matches. Their batsmen have been turbo charged by a coach, Trevor Bayliss, who is at ease in this format where his hands off method is crucial if players are to bat with freedom and not worry about the consequences.

“He has been brilliant for us. As a coach the one attribute he has is the ability to take the pressure away from any player at a time when you need it and that has helped me massively,” said Morgan.

The result is England are the only team since the World Cup with a strike rate above a run a ball (6.3 per over), have scored the most totals in excess of 300 (24) and two of more than 400 while their batsmen have hit more fours and sixes than any other team.

England captain Eoin Morgan has offered his backing to under-fire head coach Trevor Bayliss  Credit: Getty Images 

They lack the left-arm shock value of Mitchell Starc’s pace but Rashid is one-day cricket’s leading wicket-taker since the 2015 World Cup and England have such depth in their batting they believe they can make up for any bowling shortcomings.

David Warner is Australia’s most dangerous one-day player and, in another departure from the Ashes, England are less worried about the threat of Steve Smith.

“I don’t think he (Smith) is the key wicket, no. He is an unbelievable player and his run of form has been freakish. But there are loads of other impact players in their side and we will be trying to get as many of them out as we can,” said Morgan.

“We are going with the mantra that we always need to be on top of our game and testing the opposition the whole time. We have done that a bit with the bat, we will try and continue taking wickets with the ball.

Adil Rashid has become a crucial player in white-ball cricket for England  Credit: Getty Images 

"This time next year we need to be in a good enough space to be contenders for the World Cup. To be in that space you need to be setting or bucking trends or being able to adapt. We are very open minded with the way we are going. Also the best way to address it is to be on the front foot.”

Losing Stokes was a huge blow for the Test side. Without him at times it looked as though they lacked a pulse. But the one-day side has enough ball hitting talent to recover from his loss. Also Morgan has the benefit of clarity. The early Ashes Tests were clouded by uncertainty over whether Stokes would turn up at some point. By the time that was settled the series was gone.

Morgan, by contrast, knows Stokes is unavailable for the whole series. “It creates a lot more calm around the periphery,” he said.

Rashid revels under Morgan’s leadership and Moeen, if he plays, can be protected by fielding restrictions in white ball cricket. If he is not mentally exhausted by the Ashes, this series could be the boost he needs. Rashid can take wickets in the middle overs with his variations but one constant remains, the lack of an X-factor bowler.

Mark Wood believes he can do the job but his skiddy pace might come onto the bat nicely on decent batting tracks. Liam Plunkett’s bounce is a handful but England lack the shock value of Starc who can take wickets with the new and old ball.

Australia are rebuilding in one-day cricket but the series promises to be a ding-dong affair, and at least closer than the one way traffic of the Ashes series.