Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire, Edgbaston, 1st day

Hales looks beyond T20 vision

George Dobell at Edgbaston

June 29, 2014

Comments: 9 | Text size: A | A

Nottinghamshire 397 for 7 (Hales 183, Jaques 77, Wessels 53, Rankin 3-40) v Warwickshire
Scorecard

County Cricket Show: Yorkshire back on top

It might seem odd to draw conclusions on a player's white-ball ability from a red-ball game, but Alex Hales must have given himself a decent opportunity of forcing his way into England's ODI side - and their World Cup squad - with a high-class century against Warwickshire.

Nobody doubts Hales' ability in T20 cricket. He has proved himself a destructive player for England and enjoyed a spell at No. 1 in the international rankings.

It is his ability to withstand the moving ball that is debated. It is whether he has the technique to prosper against two new balls in 50-over cricket when the pitch might be assisting seam bowlers. For all the talk of England needing more explosive starts, they also need batsmen who can rebuild and defy.

So it was relevant that his century here - one short of his career-best score - came when his side had been inserted and against an attack containing four Test bowlers and two England Lions bowlers.

And it was relevant, too, that not only did he put away the bad balls - and goodness he was spoiled with the amount of them - with more than a hint of class, but he left or blocked the good ones with a judgement and straight bat that he rarely displayed in 2013.

Last season Hales averaged only 13.94 in first-class cricket. For all his dominance in the shortest format, he looked fragile outside the off stump in the red-ball game. He was dropped from the Nottinghamshire side for a while at the start of this season.

But he has worked on playing straighter and remaining compact and here it was noticeable that he was rarely drawn into playing away from his body or across his front pad. If it was his driving that stood out - and with his reach, he provides bowlers little margin for error - his leaving might have pleased him more.


Alex Hales thrashed a 96-ball hundred, Sussex v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Division One, Hove, June 3, 2014
Alex Hales struck 25 fours and a six in his 183 © Getty Images
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He must wish he could play at Edgbaston every week. He has now passed 50 six times in eight first-class innings and scored three of his eight first-class centuries on the ground. He averages an eye-watering 130.80 here and has scored - thanks to two innings of 90 against Middlesex and another big century against Sussex - more than 600 first-class runs in June alone.

"Going into the 2013 season, I had only practised my T20 skills throughout the winter," Hales said. "It was probably to the detriment of other areas of my game. T20 cricket was all that was on my mind.

"But now I'm targeting the England 50-over side. I want to prove to people that I'm not the T20 specialist some have labelled me. I'm happy with my form and I know I've got to churn out the runs. I'm desperate to be in Australia for the World Cup."

There are two caveats to this innings. The first was that, for his first 70 or so runs, Warwickshire bowled unusually poorly - they conceded 228 in boundaries in the day - and the second is that, when he did face a spell of hostile bowling, he was a bit less convincing.

Boyd Rankin, bowling with a ball 70 overs old, twice had Hales in trouble with short deliveries. The first time he flapped, unsure whether to pull or evade, the second time he popped the ball into the vacant short-leg position.

Those moments aside, however, Hales was imperious. He did not give a chance and at times treated bowlers with fine reputations with something approaching disdain. He looked a high-class player.

Warwickshire, though, will reflect on a day when their bowlers performed far below their potential. After Varun Chopra, captain in place of Jim Troughton, whose long-standing back problem has ominously flared once again, inserted Nottinghamshire on a green-tinged wicket, he would have expected his bowlers to probe and trouble the batsmen.

Instead he watched as his attack dropped short despite a painfully short boundary towards the Eric Hollies Stand. Chris Wright and Keith Barker both looked jaded, while Chris Woakes over-pitched and strayed in line. It allowed Phil Jaques to pummel his way to a half-century from 62 balls.

"The first session just wasn't good enough," Chopra said. "There was no lack of effort, but we didn't get it right and we made it easy for them. We clawed it back a bit in the afternoon, but whether it is due to the sheer amount of cricket we've been playing or something else, I don't know."

Rankin, easily the pick of the attack, was not introduced until the 43rd over and after six of his colleagues had been given an opportunity. He soon proved the folly of that decision, striking with just his ninth ball - James Taylor caught behind as he tried a pre-emptive pull at a delivery far too full for the stroke - and then again in his next over, when Samit Patel gloved a lifter down the leg side. Much later, he returned with the newer ball to trap Hales, half forward, with one that nipped back.

Until then, Jonathan Trott had been the pick of the Warwickshire attack. While he spent much of the day fielding at midwicket - he did not appear in the slips at any stage - he was pressed into service as his colleagues conceded 146 in a morning session of 29.5 overs. He soon produced a good one to Jaques that swung in and nipped away off the seam to take the outside edge.

Despite their strong position, Nottinghamshire might yet reflect they have let a golden opportunity slip away. Steven Mullaney, pulling a long-hop to the man on the midwicket boundary, and Riki Wessels, guiding a wide one to point, also gifted their wickets away and, with Hales and Peter Siddle falling in the dying moments of the day, Nottinghamshire have not quite established the overwhelming position they might have done.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by nottsfan on (June 30, 2014, 18:04 GMT)

Totally agree with all the positives written about Alex hales. Such a change from last year when Notts fans were getting very irritated with his lack of batting discipline. Watched him against Middlesex and Someset in the CC this last two weeks. He is noticeably more restrained and discriminating when choosing his shots. I feel he should already be an England ODI regular but would like him to aim for the Test side. He has the ability.

Posted by   on (June 30, 2014, 10:10 GMT)

#cookout #pietersen&halesin #maybepriorout?

Posted by BradmanBestEver on (June 30, 2014, 9:59 GMT)

This guy should be given at go at test level. Desperate times demands brave decisions.

It is time for the English selectors to be bold so we can have interesting Ashes battles rather than the monotonous pounding of the English into oblivion that we witnessed in the last series.

Posted by the_evil_weevil on (June 30, 2014, 8:02 GMT)

I would tend to agree that Hales shouldn't be getting the nod for Test cricket yet- that annus horribilis in the Championship is less than 12 months old after all- but why he hasn't played an ODI yet beats me. I would've definitely had him in for the Sri Lanka ODI series. Then again, had he been, he would've been playing in the 5th ODI instead of blasting that 167 at Hove that started his little red-ball purple patch, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise for him.

Posted by Harlequin. on (June 30, 2014, 6:58 GMT)

@jmcilhinney - re. Hales not opening, I noticed as well that he wasn't opening in this game, but he has still been scoring big when he has been opening recently - his 90's vs Middlesex and 167 vs Sussex were as an opener. I'd agree about the rest of the post, this super-month shouldn't be enough to earn him a test call-up right away, but I hope the selectors don't ignore it. Get him in the ODI team though!

Posted by   on (June 30, 2014, 3:41 GMT)

What frustrates me is that Hales gets written off without being given a go. He should already be in the ODI side (ahead of Cook) and can possibly do a job in Test cricket. Just look how David Warner can transform a game when he gets it right. Instead we have two plodders and no firepower at all in the top six. If Cook isn't scoring runs then dump him as captain and give him a bit of time in country cricket to get his range back. You can't continueously pick players on past records, otherwise we'd still be picking Boycott.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (June 30, 2014, 0:38 GMT)

Hales has been scoring some runs in the CC recently. I'm not sure what his complete history is but he seems not to be opening these days so maybe that's made a difference. It should also make him more selectable for England because it means that he's more likely to be considered for a spot other than opener. While his CC form has been good, I'm not sure that that necessarily suggests him as a Test candidate just yet. All his big scores have come quickly, which is good in and of itself, but doesn't help to indicate how he would go when the going gets tough. It does suggest him as a possible ODI candidate though, which many have been saying for a while. England are still a bit stodgy at the top so with Hales coming in at #3, they may be able to get off to quicker starts and put less pressure on Morgan and Buttler in particular.

Posted by jb633 on (June 29, 2014, 22:46 GMT)

Lets go left field and ditch Cook in ODI cricket and chuck Hales in. The boring boring English approach will get us nowhere, can we please try something different.

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (June 29, 2014, 19:40 GMT)

Excellent informative stuff. Just what a fan who is not at the game wants.

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