Cook optimistic about partner Hales’ future


England captain Alastair Cook says he is 'pleased' by the way fellow opener Alex Hales played during the Test series against Sri Lanka, scoring a string of big half centuries, and hopes this will become a permanent deal.

Hales made his debut against South Africa over the holiday season at the start of the year, so this was only his second Test series. While in South Africa he made a lone half ton, but here he made three big ones.

Cook, who has had nine opening partners since Andrew Strauss retired four years ago, seemed optimistic about Hales' chances of sticking around for a while, taking the pressure off the skipper's shoulders.

Cook said after the draw at Lord's: "Three scores of 80 and above from Alex Hales was really pleasing. He's certainly tightened up his game from South Africa and probably just learned about Test cricket.

"It's great when you see someone who maybe doesn't quite nail it in the first four games but then goes away and shoes the hunger to work on his game away from the spotlight."  

Another player who also impressed the skipper was wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who scored two tons in the series. But while his batting was en pointe, his keeping was fairly average, as Cook conceded.

He said of Bairstow's batting: "It's a brilliant achievement. And it's great to have an attacking batsman coming in and taking it to the opposition.  He's been very similar to Matt Prior when he was at his best.

"We could often be 100 for five and he'd change the momentum. It's great to see someone who works so hard at his game getting his rewards."  

But of the keeping, he added: "He knows how hard he has to work at his keeping. That is a conversation we do have. He knows a couple of chances have gone down, but you don't become a world-class wicketkeeper overnight.

"He's made big strides since that South Africa series and is certainly heading in the right direction. But yes, there is always the thought that he could play as a specialist batsman with a guy who scores as many runs as he can."

England next face Pakistan, in the UK, next month. While Hales and Bairstow are locks to be picked, number three batsman Nick Compton will almost certainly not feature, as Cook hinted.

He said of Compton's dire form: "He's shown glimpses. He is as frustrated as anyone. He's got to go away now and score big runs in county cricket. Obviously, there will be a decision to be made on him. He knows that."