It's been a while since England have had the luxury of having a settled opening partnership, may it be in Test Cricket, or the shorter versions. While the Jason Roy-Alex Hales pairing is starting to look the future of England's ODI and T20 teams, it doesn't look like an answer to who will partner Alastair Cook is coming anytime soon.
There's a long list of players who have opened alongside Cook after the departure of Andrew Strauss back in 2012. Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott and Adam Lyth have all been tried and tested at the top of the order, but none of them has been able to nail down the spot. Nick Compton looked like a decent opener, but was dropped for having two bad test matches in what was more a push of the panic button ahead of The Ashes'13. Michael Carberry was treated the same way too, as he found himself dropped despite being one of England's best batsmen on the tour to Australia. You might say either one of them should still have been England's opener in test matches.
The war, for now, is between two of England's brightest prospects - Moeen Ali and Alex Hales. Well, the latter shouldn't even be in the UAE with England, once you consider the run he's had in the ODIs, particularly in the recently concluded series against Australia. Yes, he's been prolific in the domestic circuit, scoring heavily for Nottinghamshire, but that doesn't mean he can do the same at the highest level when it's about red-ball Cricket in difficult conditions and against top-quality attacks
Technically, Alex Hales isn't the best. You know he's always a fast-inswinger away from making a mess of it, which makes him a walking wicket for England since he'll be facing Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan and Imran Khan-like top-quality seamers who are good even on the dry surfaces with minimal bounce. Add to that his weakness against spin and you have the strongest reason not to play him.
Moeen Ali isn't the best in terms of technique either, but he still is better anyway. He leaves it well, does get on the front foot nicely, and has a solid defence. Again, the fact that he likes to attack the spinners and use his feet more often than not in Saaed Anwar style - the man he is an exact carbon copy of - does bring him up as the first choice. As this is the UAE, spinners could well be bowling as early as the 10th over, and you don't want them to settle down on a particular length, something Ali can take care of very well. He can hit you down the ground the first ball as if it's nothing, unlike Hales, who needs time against spinners and still keeps giving you chances.
Moeen's abilities as a batsman aren't the only reason why they should choose him. His selection gives England the bonus of playing two specialist spinners. If Hales is in, the only genuine spinner available is Adil Rashid which could prove to be very dangerous in such conditions.
It isn't that Alex Hales isn't good, but the thing is, he simply doesn't have the qualities of a test-match opener. A bad run in the test matches could ruin his confidence even as an ODI and T20 player, and England can't afford that as that's where they need him the most, not the test matches where Joe Root and Moeen Ali-like options are already available.
Surely, Trevor Bayliss wouldn't want to shoot himself in the foot as he heads into what could be the most important period for him, as well as English Cricket.