C365 Exclusive: Hales hopes to emulate Warner
Whilst contemporaries Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root have become established international cricketers across all three formats, Hales has been confined to Twenty20 by the national set-up until his ODI call-up this week.
Alex Hales is in the form of his life. Since illuminating England's otherwise grim World Twenty20 campaign with a match-winning century against eventual champions Sri Lanka in March he has plundered six hundreds for Nottinghamshire and England Lions, averaging over 50 in both the County Championship and the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Yet whilst contemporaries Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root have become established international cricketers across all three formats, Hales has been confined to Twenty20 by the national set-up until his ODI call-up this week.
That is despite recording three of England's four highest scores in the 20-over game and reaching the number one ranking for a time. He spoke to <i>Cricket365</i> about his ambitions, and the World Cup next year.
"Thanks for reminding me of that, I still feel 18!", he half jokes when it is put to him that he will be 26 by the time that England's Valentine's Day World Cup opener against Australia comes around. "I feel like I'm ready to make that step up and hopefully I'll grab it."
Though seen as a no brainer by many, the selection of Hales nonetheless marks a departure from the way England have looked to play 50-over cricket in the recent past.
He doesn't feel that it is his place to comment on the approach taken at the top of the order by Alastair Cook and Ian Bell but, if instructions given to him and other batsmen ahead of England Lions' recent tri-series are anything to go by, he won't be emulating them.
He says: "Speaking to Andy Flower and Graham Thorpe, they just say go out and do exactly what you've done for your counties – play good, solid attacking cricket and put the pressure back on the bowlers.
"That was our aim going into those Lions games and the batters put their hands up and played outstandingly throughout the series."
The Cook/Bell pairing has served England well in home conditions and when they have had a world class bowling attack to call on. However, the retirement of Graeme Swann combined with changes to the fielding restrictions and the relentless march of Twenty20-inspired destructive batting have reduced 280 from a match-winning score to little more than par.
"I think that's definitely the way in places like Australia and the sub-continent where the pitches are generally true and flat throughout 50 overs with the fielding restrictions and the harder balls lasting throughout the innings", Hales agrees. "I think par scores will go up.
"In England there will still be a bit more seam movement so you do need a certain technique to open the batting here in 50-over cricket. That's something I've really worked on in red ball cricket this year and I feel much more complete as a cricketer."
Talking of the red ball, the idea that Hales could be a Test cricketer would have seemed fanciful when he was left out by his county at the end of last summer after averaging 13.94 from 18 innings.
However, a twist of fate saw him go unsold at the IPL auction, something that he says gave him the time to work on his red ball game. Whatever he has done has worked as 926 Championship runs in 10 games demonstrates.
There are obvious comparisons to be made with David Warner. Warner, like Hales, first broke through as a Twenty20 player but since establishing himself in the Test side off the back of his short-form efforts has given Australia's top order an intimidatory edge, much like Matthew Hayden did before him. It is something England have often lacked.
"Warner's somebody I look up to and admire as a cricketer," Hales says. "To come from not even playing first-class cricket in to an international T20 and then next thing you know he's killing it at the top of the order in Test Match cricket for Australia.
"I feel the way that my game has progressed over the last 12 months if I keep making those improvements who knows what's round the corner?"
With England out of Test action until April, that is all very much in the future. Attention now turns to the World Cup where Hales will surely have a significant role to play if England are to make any impact. His transition from Twenty20 ace to the 50-over team has been a prolonged one but it will surely have been worth the wait.
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