Alex Hales warns England not to take Afghanistan lightly at T20 World Cup

Alex Hales warns England not to take Afghanistan lightly at T20 World Cup

Alex Hales has warned England not to underestimate Afghanistan in their opening T20 World Cup fixture on Saturday, saying the combination of their powerful batting and the spin of Rashid Khan, ranked No 2 in the world in the format by the ICC, makes them one of the most difficult opponents they will face.

“They are a dangerous side,” he said. “Any team in this World Cup is dangerous but particularly Afghanistan. They’ve got some explosive batters, guys who really tee off from ball one, so it’s going to be a tough game. They’re a team that’s improving rapidly and have some skilful operators, and they have two of the best spinners in the world in Rashid and Mujeeb [Ur Rahman].”

Rashid ranks third on the all-time list of T20 international wicket-takers with 118, despite having played just 71 matches, fewer than any other member of the top 10, and is a former teammate of Hales at Trent Rockets.

“He has got the ability to spin the ball both ways at decent pace, he is very difficult to get down the pitch to, and he is a world-class fielder and batter as well,” Hales said. “He is a full T20 player.

“I think a lot of the guys have played an awful lot of cricket against him now. He’s been around a long time and our guys are very experienced. Obviously he’s a world-class operator but I think of all the grounds to play him at, Perth is probably one of the friendlier ones as a batter.”

Hales has certainly enjoyed his previous visits here: his 84 against Australia in the first game of the recent T20 series brought his average at Perth Stadium to 48.75, and of the 34 grounds he has played at more than twice he has a higher average at only one, in Chittagong.

“It is a ground where you can create angles moving around the crease and use the pace and bounce to your advantage,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it will be a high-scoring game and some good batting conditions.”

Hales described Tymal Mills, who joined the squad this week after Reece Topley’s freak ankle injury ruled him out of the competition, as “a huge asset”, but said the squad had been affected by Topley’s exit.

“It’s hugely disappointing for him, especially a guy who has put so much work into his fitness and cricket for the last few years. It is a very bitter, disappointing pill to swallow,” Hales said. “It is a blow, and his form coming into this tournament has been really good, but we have got guys hopefully who can step in and fill those boots.”

Although Sri Lanka came through their qualifying group despite suffering a devastating defeat in their opening game, Hales believes it is vital for England to get their tournament off to a positive start.

“With this being only five games, you have to get off to a good start,” he said. “It’s really important that you find early momentum and try and keep going with that as long as you can. In T20 franchise stuff you want to peak at the back end of the tournament, but here it’s going to be from ball one.”