Alex Hales has taken a risk in opting to miss the first two matches of the season © Getty Images
The start of the County Championship season is often diluted by international commitments or a desire to rest players but, this year, every member of England’s Test side in South Africa has been made available by the England management over the opening weeks.
While a few players – such as Joe Root and Ben Stokes – will be rested from some games, the opening fixtures of the season promise some high-quality clashes between strong-looking county sides. The Championship matches between Warwickshire and Yorkshire at Edgbaston from April 24 and Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire at Trent Bridge from May 1 look especially attractive.
Perhaps most intriguing is Alex Hales’ decision to rest until May 1. It leaves him only two games to gain form – and selection – before the team for the first Test of the summer, against Sri Lanka at Leeds from May 19, is named.
That might well leave his Test position vulnerable. Nick Compton and Adam Lyth are among those competing for the opener’s spot, while Ian Bell and Gary Ballance join them in pushing for the No. 3 position. If any of them start the season in prolific form, it could put Hales under some pressure.
Hales had previously decided against entering the IPL auction in an attempt to concentrate on his red-ball form. He averaged just 17 in the South Africa Test series so cannot be considered to have done enough to have secured his position in the long term.
While it is possible he has received assurances about his inclusion in that first Test squad, it seems more likely that after a long and emotionally draining first winter involved in the England squad in all formats of the game, Hales has reasoned that the benefits of a fresh mind outweigh the benefits of early-season batting in England. He will miss two Championship matches.
Chris Jordan’s return will also be delayed until May 1 in order to allow him to receive treatment upon his sore right elbow, while Reece Topley’s Hampshire debut may be delayed until their second match of the season.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo