Morgan optimistic Roy will play a big role at World Cup

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — An injury to Jason Roy has brought the name Alex Hales back into the frame for England at the Cricket World Cup.

It’s a name that was rubbed off the home team’s list ahead of the World Cup for what England officials delicately described as an off-field issue.

England captain Eoin Morgan responded last month to Hales being “deselected” by saying the right-hander showed a disregard for team values and “this has created a lack of trust between Alex and the team.”

Now, Hales may well be needed.

Roy and Morgan were injured — but didn’t need to bat — in England’s eight-wicket win over West Indies last Friday, and are recovering at a different pace.

England team management on Monday confirmed Roy would miss at least two games this week against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka after scans showed a muscle tear in his left hamstring. Morgan said his back problem had settled down and he expected to be OK.

Questions at the pre-match news conferences centered on Roy, and which players are in contention to replace the destructive opening batsman if he doesn’t recover in time for important games next week against defending champion Australia and 2011 champion India.

James Vince will be recalled to the XI to open with Jonny Bairstow against Afghanistan at Old Trafford on Tuesday, with Joe Root reverting to No. 3 despite scoring an unbeaten century when he opened against West Indies.

That’s this week’s solution. But what happens if Roy has to be cut from the 15-man squad? Hales was the established opener before he was suspended initially for his part in a street brawl also involving England teammate Ben Stokes in September 2017.

Roy and Bairstow forged a winning combination, relegating Hales to a backup role. After the second disciplinary suspension last month, he was cut entirely from the squad.

His management company, 366 Group, last month said Hales was “devastated” after being withdrawn from the World Cup squad, saying England cricket authorities had gone back on assurances that the suspension wouldn’t adversely impact on his selection.

366 said Hales underwent rehabilitation measures imposed following his suspension and had apologized.

Morgan, who was critical of Hales’ actions last month, was asked if enough time had passed for senior players to be comfortable about having Hales back. He deferred to selector Ed Smith.

“It would be a case of speaking to Ed because ultimately Ed gets the final call and say on who is involved in the 15,” Morgan said, “and then addressing how that would look in a changing room setup, yeah.”

For now, though, Morgan is focusing on Roy returning to fitness so that England doesn’t need to call for reinforcements.

“I certainly believe Jason will play again in this tournament,” Morgan said. “If not (against) Australia, maybe the following game.”

Roy limped off after injuring his leg while fielding early in the match against the West Indies. He missed the latter stage of England’s ODI series in the Caribbean in February and March, and more time for his county team.

But England is keeping Roy around the squad because of his ability to take bowling attacks apart and his integral role in the evolution of the ODI squad since its group-stage exit at the 2015 World Cup.

He averages 42 in 80 one-day internationals and his 180 against Australia in Melbourne last year is England’s ODI record. He scored 54 in the World Cup opener against South Africa and 153 against Bangladesh in Cardiff.

“He’s obviously a huge part of what we’ve been doing. He’s in the best form of his life. So he’s very important,” Morgan said. “There’s a reason we’d keep him around. One, obviously is he’s a very key player, but two is there’s a very optimistic chance of him playing.”

Top-ranked England is playing Australia at Lord’s next Tuesday and then takes on No. 2-ranked India five days later in Birmingham, two games which are a critical test of the host team’s status as the title favorite.

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