Weekly cricket round-up: Alex Hales struggles to recapture best form in T20 Blast and IPL latest

Alex Hales under the microscope

Richard Mann's latest cricket takeaways feature a punting pointer for the IPL and Alex Hales' struggles for Nottinghamshire.

Spin not quite King in IPL run-fest

This season's delayed Indian Premier League is already humming along at a fair old pace with big hits, big scores and some barely believable run chases dominating the first few weeks of this always entertaining showpiece event.

Watching some of the finest bowlers in the world - Dale Steyn, and on occasion, Pat Cummins - being bludgeoned to all parts of Dubai has proved hard to stomach at times but there have been signs more recently that batsmen won't have things all their own way going forward.

Just as has become the norm in the T20 cricket all around the world, spin, and particularly wrist spin, is playing a big part in containing the seemingly endless production line of white-ball big hitters and as the competition wears on, and the pitches and squares in Dubai understandably become more used tired, expect this to become even more prevalent.

It is worth noting that in the tournament so far, the three most economical bowlers are all spinners. As expected, the brilliant Rashid Khan continues to be one of the leading performers on show with his miserly economy rate of 5.20 one of the reasons Sunrisers Hyderabad's misfiring batting isn't yet drawing the criticism it probably should.

The ever-dependable Axar Patel and Washington Sundar join Khan in the top three for economy rates but purely from a betting point of view, it appears significant that none of this trio features in the top 10 leading wicket-takers at the time of writing. That list is dominated by fast bowlers with Kagiso Rabada sat at the top of the tree.

Kagiso Rabada

For his part, Rabada's slippery pace and ability to swing the new ball has been one of the main factors in Delhi Capitals enjoying such a strong start to the competition, and as I have argued before, giving your premier fast bowler first use of the white ball - which never swings for too long - affords him the best chance to set the tone and pick up early wickets. Rabada has done just that.

Looking further down the list and there are only three spinners in the top 10 leading wicket-takers so far this season, with only one - Yuzvendra Chahal - featuring in the top five.

That's not to at all underplay the role spinners will continue to play in the tournament, particularly away from the brutally small ground at Sharjah, but it seems batsmen have become live to their threat, too, and are happy to take a more cautious approach against quality spin and wait to take risks against the seamers.

That has always been evident at the back-end of an innings anyway, but it is proving to be even more the case this year. The likes of Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah and Sheldon Cottrell - who have all conceded north of eight runs per over in their five matches apiece - have regularly picked up wickets despite enduring some expensive outings.

It is still be early days but while spin might prove the main weapon to stem the flow of runs and break key partnerships in the middle overs, for betting purposes at least, it seams that sticking with the fast bowlers in any top bowler markets might be the way to go for the time being.

Spin might be king, but pace is always ace.

Will the real Alex Hales please stand up?

It wasn't so long ago that Alex Hales was an instrumental part of England's white-ball set-up; a bold and brazen top-order batsman whose results in the limited-overs forms of the game were so good that he was once seen as the answer to England's troubles in Test cricket and was thus given an extended run opening the batting alongside Sir Alastair Cook.

Alex Hales

That didn't work out but it never really detracted from his exploits in white-ball cricket until he was axed for last summer's successful World Cup campaign having failed England's recreational drugs policy for a second time.

While England were probably left with little choice - as well as boasting the squad depth to absorb his absence - it was a decision that must have hurt Hales badly. Winning a World Cup is a once in a lifetime achievement. Winning one in front of your own fans at Lord's, in a final to trump all finals - that's fairy tale stuff and then some.

And Hales hasn't recovered. Not on the evidence so far, anyway.

On Sunday night, he celebrated Nottinghamshire's victory in the Vitality Blast at the end of a soggy, rescheduled Finals Day that was played out in front of empty stands at Edgbaston. It has been that way all summer, of course, but Finals Day has become synonymous with packed stands, a raucous crowd and a party atmosphere.

There was a wintery, almost sombre feel about this year's edition, one that was played in the biting cold on a ground sodden wet through following days of heavy autumn rain; not so much the cricket summer coming to a crescendo, but more its last rites.

Nottinghamshire won the 2020 Vitality Blast

Credit must go to all four sides, and in particular Nottinghamshire, who defied the conditions to put on some sort of show but it was a far cry from the bright lights of the IPL and Big Bash that Hales has become so accustomed to. Or indeed, playing on the biggest stage of all for England.

Unfortunately, these are the times we now live in but for Hales, his fall from grace has been something akin to sliding down the side of a mountain face wearing nothing but swimming shorts and a vest. His career is currently in freefall and the pain of some deep cuts is showing.

Refreshed and with a point to prove after Eoin Morgan confirmed earlier in the summer that Hales was still some way from earning an England recall, Hales had been expected to take this year's Blast by storm. Instead, he prodded, poked, and sometimes aimlessly swung his way to 123 runs from 11 matches at an average of only 18.36.

It was scant reward for a player so used to dominating for club and country and that he wasn't able to make his mark on Finals Day itself will have left him even more frustrated. With the Sky cameras watching, scores of 29 and 0 certainly weren't the returns Hales would have been hoping for.

But for a foul-mouthed outburst following his dismissal against Lancashire - one that forced the umpires to warn the two not out Nottinghamshire batsmen that any further misdemeanours would result in a five-run penalty - we would have barely noticed Hales at all.

Whether the 31-year-old can play some franchise cricket this winter remains to be seen, but with the T20 World Cup expected to take place next year, the real Alex Hales will need to stand up very soon if he is to force his way onto that plane to India.

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