Woakes: Hales has plenty of time to settle


England all-rounder Chris Woakes has defended team-mate Alex Hales ahead of the first Test against South Africa, saying that there was still time for the opener to find his feet after a few failures.

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Hales is set to make his Test debut on Boxing Day, but is feeling the pressure after scores of eight and eight in the tour match against a South African Invitation XI in Potchefstroom this week.

If Hales does play in the Test, he will become Alastair Cook's eighth opening partner since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012. If he fails, then Nick Compton is on hand to slot in if asked.

Woakes said of Hales: "He probably hasn't had the time in the middle he'd like, but we're only two days into the tour and there’s plenty of time to get into nick.

"He’s a great player and he deserves his opportunity.

"Fingers crossed in the next week or two before the first Test he can get some more time out there and show what he can do."

Of his own efforts in the tour match, Woakes said he hoped to do enough before the Test to bag that fourth seamer spot: "I was in good rhythm and my pace was up (in Potch).

"You'd expect Stokesy (Ben Stokes), Broady (Stuart Broad) and Jimmy (James Anderson) to be in the starting XI so there is a space up for grabs.

"Fingers crossed I can put in some performances and get my name in that first team."