ABU DHABI - Moeen Ali put his failed experiment as a Test opener behind him on Sunday when he went back to doing what he does best for England.
A one-day warm-up game against Hong Kong on Abu Dhabi’s nursery ground next to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium was the low-key stage for Moeen to re-assert himself back in the lower middle order where it appears he belongs. Moeen smashed 71 off 36 balls as England sauntered to 342 for eight off their 50 overs against modest opposition to get ready for the limited-overs leg of their tour which begins against Pakistan on Wednesday.
If Hong Kong , ranked 15 in the world one-day rankings, did not exactly provide the stiffest of tests then the match served its purpose in providing valuable time in the middle for the bulk of England’s batsmen.
Not least among them was Moeen, who had a torrid time in the Test series and ended it with a blow on the head suffered in Sharjah at the hands of Wahab Riaz and a dent in his pride caused by his failure to succeed in his new role.
Here he was far more comfortable batting at No7 and providing an elegant sting in the English tail by striking five sixes with effortless ease as the part-timers from Hong Kong struggled to contain him.
Equally important for England was the contribution of the man who appears destined to replace Moeen as Alastair Cook’s opening partner in South Africa next month in Alex Hales, who was equally fluent in scoring 64 from 56 balls.
Hales endured the frustration of being on the sidelines throughout the Test series but now has the perfect opportunity to fulfil his ambition to establish himself at the top of the England order in all three formats.
If he is to do that he will need to improve on a nightmare run which sees him averaging eight in his last eight innings in all cricket, notably a one-day series against Australia that became a nightmare for him.
Certainly Trevor Bayliss’s declaration that it would be harsh on Hales if he were not to play in South Africa means that England will be keeping their fingers firmly crossed he will emerge from that rut in the four match one-day series.
England are determined here to carry on the high-octane one-day cricket that saw them recover spectacularly from World Cup misery to defeat New Zealand and then come close to doing the same to Australia last summer.
To that end they will be encouraged that both Hales and Jason Roy immediately found their range, Roy racing to 42 in an opening stand of 63 that augers well for the bigger tests to come against Pakistan. There were also decent contributions from Joe Root – who has changed his one-day number to 66. See what he did there? - and, encouragingly, Jos Buttler, but captain Eoin Morgan could manage only 16 from 20 balls in his first innings since being struck on the head by Mitchell Starc at Old Trafford.
It was always likely to be the tallest of orders for Hong Kong but they gave an England attack that looked a seamer short in the absence of Steven Finn, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood a decent work out.
Opportunity knocked for Reece Topley, who gained a wicket thanks to an outstanding catch from Buttler, who later had to leave the field with a finger injury and will be assessed by the England medical staff on Sunday.
It was Topley’s fellow left-armer David Willey who made the first two breakthroughs, one thanks to an even better low diving catch from Roy, before Babar Hayat held England up with 78 until he was bowled by Chris Woakes.
Willey returned to take two more wickets and become the most successful England bowler with four for 43 before the Hong Kong innings fizzled out to 173 all out.

Scoreboard

ENGLAND XI:
JJ Roy lbw b Tanwir Afzal 42
AD Hales b Anshuman Rath 64
JE Root c Carter b Aizaz Khan 39
EJG Morgan c Aizaz b Nadeem 16
JWA Taylor c Waqas b Tanwir 15
JC Buttler c Haseeb b Nadeem 38
MM Ali c Babar b Haseeb Amjad 71
CR Woakes c Anshuman b Haseeb 14
AU Rashid not out 11
DJ Willey not out 5
EXTRAS: (b 2, lb 2, w 19, nb 4) 27
TOTAL: (8 wickets; 50 overs) 342
FOW: 1-63, 2-140, 3-174, 4-178, 5-207, 6-263, 7-322, 8-325
BOWLING: Tanwir Afzal 10-1-40-2, Haseeb Amjad 9-0-80-2, Nadeem Ahmed 10-0-58-2, Aizaz Khan 10-0-65-1, Anshuman Rath 8-0-70-1, Ehsan Nawaz 3-0-30-0.
HONG KONG :
Anshuman Rath lbw b Willey 14
KD Shah c Roy b Willey 3
Babar Hayat b Woakes 78
Nizakat Khan c Buttler b Topley 20
C Carter c Woakes b Rashid 34
Waqas Barkat lbw b Root 0
Tanwir Afzal c Taylor b Willey 9
Aizaz Khan b Willey 3
Waqas Khan b Rashid 3
Haseeb Amjad lbw b Topley 0
Nadeem Ahmed not out 2
EXTRAS: (b 1, lb 6) 7
TOTAL: (all out; 40.2 overs) 173
FOW: 1-21, 2-23, 3-59, 4-140, 5-141, 6-164, 7-165, 8-171, 9-171, 10-173.
BOWLING: DJ Willey 10-1-43-4, RJW Topley 7.2-1-18-2, CR Woakes 6-1-25-1, MM Ali 6-1-27-0, AU Rashid 7-0-46-2, JE Root 4-1-7-1.
TOSS: England XI
UMPIRES: Ahsan Raza and Khalid Elahi