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Ben Slater stars with century but Alex Hales absence overshadows Notts win

Apr 23, 2019

Nottinghamshire 301 for 9 (Slater 100, Patel 5-45) beat Warwickshire 183 (Banks 57, Thomson 55, Fletcher 3-21) by 118 runs

Nottinghamshire confidently expect Alex Hales to join up as planned for England’s three-day training camp in Cardiff this weekend, despite being given an indefinite break from cricket for undisclosed personal reasons. That is the most optimistic outlook for a player who has lost his footing as he approaches the biggest hurdle of his professional life.

Hales’ state of mind dominated the agenda even as Nottinghamshire racked up a thumping 118-run victory over Warwickshire in the Royal London Cup, a campaign in which he is now certain to play no part, as he concentrates instead on getting body and soul together before England embark upon a huge summer which includes a home World Cup and an Ashes series.

Nottinghamshire’s view of Hales’ absence appears to be one of philosophical acceptance that everything must be done to get him in the right physical and mental shape for England’s World Cup campaign. He is viewed as England’s stand-by World Cup batsman, but a back spasm for Jason Roy at The Kia Oval on Tuesday has emphasised how he could be required to step into the playing XI at any moment.

Hales, who is on a white-ball only contract with Notts, had initially seen the start of their 50-over campaign as a chance to impress on England that he was in mint form ahead of the biggest tournament of his career, but such ambitions have had to be shelved to address pressing personal issues.

Only three weeks ago, at a Chance to Shine promotion in Loughborough, he had cut a figure of maturity as he concluded: “Luckily I get four games in for Notts. That will be a good chance to get some runs on the board and feel in good form. We are so lucky to have Peter Moores in charge. For me he is one of the best coaches in the world. To be around his knowledge and enthusiasm is ideal.”

Such plans have gone badly awry: he has yet to strike a ball in anger. “Don’t copy Hales” sounds like a Trent Bridge guide for life.

Gifted and destructive, and capable of walking into many one-day batting sides in the world, he can hardly afford another mis-step in his career after being banned earlier this year for six white-ball games, four of them suspended, and fined £17,500 by the ECB for his part in the brawl in Bristol that left Ben Stokes facing criminal charges.

Notts are certainly managing well enough without him; what remains to be seen as England embark upon their summer is how well he will manage without Notts. They steamrollered Warwickshire at Edgbaston, a third consecutive win which takes them top of North Group.

Ben Slater, admittedly unfortunate to be overshadowed by his more illustrious opening partner even in his absence, made 100 from 115 balls on a dry, slightly awkward, surface. It was his fifth century in List A cricket, the format in which he made most impression at his previous county, Derbyshire.

Slater also slips under the radar when compared to Notts’ other recent batting signings. Joe Clarke again oozed class in making 39 in an opening stand of 81 in 11.3 overs. Ben Duckett, who malfunctioned on the pull, is more quirky. Both were victims of George Panayi, a strongly-built seamer and former Shrewsbury School captain, But Slater played securely on a pitch where many struggled until Jeetan Patel found substantial turn to strike his off stump.

Patel, so often Warwickshire’s saviour, finished with five wickets, but from 207 for 7, a robust eighth-wicket stand of 50 in six overs between Luke Fletcher and James Pattinson swung the match Nottinghamshire’s way.

At halfway, with 301 for 9 racked up, Warwickshire already felt out of the match. The loss of four wickets in the first 6.1 overs ensured more soul-searching for a county that lost its previous match, against Northants at Wantage Road, by 194 runs, their heaviest List A defeat. Paul Farbrace, Warwickshire’s new sport director, said he wanted to take himself out of his comfort zone when he relinquished a World Cup as England’s assistant coach, and he appears to have his work cut out.

Once Ed Pollock had succumbed to off-spin – Matthew Carter, who opened the bowling for that purpose, had him lbw for nought to a straight ball – some pointedly on-the-mark new-ball bowling from Pattinson and Fletcher caused a speedy decline. Dom Sibley, Sam Hain and Tim Ambrose all fell to balls of insistent length, Fletcher causing Sibley to play on, Pattinson having Hain caught at the wicket before bringing one back to bowl Ambrose first ball.

From 69 for 6, two young professionals responded with spirit, Liam Banks and Alex Thomson both making half-centuries at roughly a run a ball. But Fletcher had the last word, fittingly so, had the last word by trapping Patel lbw, a straightforward and resolute professional completing a fine match.

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1181821.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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