Nottinghamshire v Sussex, Hove, 3rd day June 3, 2014

Fiery Hales sends England signal

Vithushan Ehantharajah in Hove

Sussex 355 (Joyce 164) and 29 for 0 require another 405 runs to beat Nottinghamshire 420 and 336 for 4 dec (Hales 167, Taylor 65*)

There have been three innings of great class at Hove. When Samit Patel, lingering outside the Nottinghamshire dressing room at stumps, was asked which of his, Ed Joyce's or Alex Hales' centuries was best, he gave a wry smile: "That's for you writers to say," before adding, "but, you know, first-innings runs are tough."

Hales was nowhere in sight, hotfooting it to the pub when the day was brought to a close. He doesn't seem the type to gather old and young around and spin a yarn about his batting feats over a pint by the fire. However, there is little doubt that those here today will enjoy talking through every straight drive and charging smite over the rope.

On a day when England's chosen ODI batsmen laboured on a stodgy Edgbaston pitch, it was their sole Twenty20 international centurion, in the second innings of this Championship match, who produced a fine, one-day paced knock. For the second day in a row, Hales' name was banded about social media, part of the groundswell for his inclusion in the 50-over side ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Things would have been a lot different had Rory Hamilton-Brown held on to a catch at second slip with Hales on 32. Going to his left, it looked like he had taken an easier chance away from Ben Brown at first slip. Reprieved, Hales went on to amass 167 from 133 balls, his first century since August 2012. On that occasion, he compiled a 247-ball 155, batting for six hours and scoring just one six; this innings, his seventh first-class hundred, took about half the time.

It is easy to forget that before Hales adopted a baseball back-lift, he was regarded as a graceful and classical young batsman. Much of what people see of him now is the extension and long, winding swing of his levers, generating enough power to run a small village for a week. This version of Hales made an appearance after he brought up his 96-ball hundred, when he caused a delay with a slog-sweep for six over square leg, off the part-time spin of Luke Wells, which needed fetching by the umpires.

Five more maximums followed, three of which helped him move from 100 to 150 in just 27 balls. Chris Nash was hit high and then flat down the ground, while Jon Lewis and Matthew Hobden were lifted into the pavilion. Memories of last season, when Hales averaged 13.94 in the Championship, were scrubbed out.

He began streakily but soon hit his straps with an array of drives that had his stride long and elbow high. He punched the ball into gaps off front and back foot and reached the rope at regular intervals throughout his innings, without trying to over-hit the ball. Once into the 90s, he played sensibly as Ed Joyce toyed with the field, before he reached three figures by fleecing the ball behind square.

Notts were restricted to a 97-run lead on the first innings after a fine partnership of 117 from Joyce and Lewis for the ninth wicket ensured Sussex could not be asked to follow on. Once Lewis had departed, Joyce set about plundering runs; clearing his front foot and then Ajmal Shahzad at a deep mid-off, before late cutting to bring up his 150 and then signing off Patel's over with a crunching drive through extra cover. He gave the first chance of his innings off his 283rd ball, when an aerial slap down the ground clattered into the palm of Andre Adams, but didn't stick. The wicket of Hobden in his next over eased the pain, giving Adams his first five-wicket haul of the season. Joyce finished unbeaten and unflustered on 164.

After lunch, with Notts beginning their second innings, the game lulled as the hoards of children that swarmed the outfield at the interval seemingly disappeared from Hove entirely. Even those in the crowd old enough to know, or even care, about what was going on in the context of the game were passive by their standards over the last two days.

Hales bore the brunt of their barbs while fielding on the boundary's edge and it would be Hales who awoke them from their stupor. After a subdued start, he began to time the ball with ease. Then the fireworks began, as Hales set about obliterating the Sussex attack and taking Notts out of sight and ensuring they would at least leave Hove with a draw.

He fell attempting to cart Nash for another maximum, this time over cow corner. Eventually, after some contributions from others and a confusing 30 minutes where Notts were unsure whether to stick or twist, they declared to set Sussex the improbable target of 434. Whether Sussex can see out the game themselves, or need some help from Wednesday's iffy forecast, remains to be seen.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • patrick on June 4, 2014, 14:47 GMT

    Good report but could mention that Taylor couldn't time anything and Prior looked SO rusty behind the wicket that England must leave him out next week.

  • Paul on June 4, 2014, 11:14 GMT

    I actually get the sense that Cook might be the problem in the ODI team. A couple of years ago I started to see his one day game developing, but it seems to have regressed in recent months. He seems to put pressure on the batters around him, and doesn't seem to have the ability to play in more than one way - ie: he isn't able to go "through the gears". Hales clearly has talent in abundance, and I would really like the selectors to give him a go in ODIs. James Vince is very much in the same mould so if not Hales then perhaps Vince .

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2014, 10:18 GMT

    Our ODI side plays test cricket. Good as Cook and Root are, we can never force the pace and once Morgan, Buttler or Bopara are at the crease there is too much pressure to move the score along. Hales and Lumb opening the batting would give us over 300 on a regular basis.

  • Android on June 4, 2014, 9:18 GMT

    he is a very good opener in england and has the potential and ablity to prove himself he just need one game he should be there in a series against india in august

  • Jackie on June 4, 2014, 0:21 GMT

    Very interesting report of a match with very high scores. How this can compare with the ODI played on a very slow Edgbaston pitch is hard to see, considering that both England and Sri Lankan batsmen had a tough time scoring on it.

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2014, 22:35 GMT

    All the signs are that Hales has the ability and also possibly the temperament to succeed in any of the 3 formats eventually. Whether it is possible to have sustained success in all 3 ast once when England play so much cricket, is another matter.

    For now though, he should be in the ODI team in place of either Root or Ballance, with Bell moving to 3.

  • No featured comments at the moment.