ALEX Hales has one more chance to impress again in 2012 today, as he sets his sights on a breakthrough year for England.
Hales’ 26-ball half-century, in a losing cause against India in Thursday night’s first of two Twenty20 Internationals, was a timely contribution before tomorrow’s announcement of two limited-overs squads for the tour of New Zealand in February.
However he fares in England’s 99th and final day of international cricket this year, at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, the aggressive opening batsman ought to be a certainty for the Twenty20s in New Zealand. But the 23-year-old has ambitions in all formats – and although any Test aspirations may seem a little fanciful as yet, his next stepping stone would be to sneak into the one-day international reckoning.
To that end, Hales is intent on taking all opportunities which come his way – and seeking others out too, having just signed up for a stint in the Bangladesh Premier League early next year. He knows he can further his England prospects, meanwhile, by continuing to impress for the Performance Programme – with a view to international recognition in the 50-over format.
“There’s an up-and-coming Lions tour I’m hoping to be part of, and the Twenty20 in New Zealand,” he said. “All I can do is keep doing as well as I can and try to impress the selectors ... perform to the best of my ability whenever I get a chance. If I can get on the Lions tour and do well, then I hope I can put myself in the frame for it [the one-day international squad].”
His decision to join the BPL is one taken – by Luke Wright, his fellow joint record-holder of England’s highest Twenty20 score, and Ravi Bopara too – against advice issued by the Professional Cricketers’ Association.
Their chief executive Angus Porter is “very nervous” about the BPL’s track record, after last year’s issue of non-payment to players. Hales, however, is prepared to take a chance on the basis of what he sees as a feasible risk-reward ratio. “I did see that, and you do have a little bit of concern,” he said of the PCA’s stance. “But at the end of the day, there’s a Twenty20 World Cup coming up in a few years in Bangladesh. So any experience you can get out in the sub-continent is invaluable. Any time you can play in a massive tournament, to benefit your international hopes, is a great opportunity.”
Hales will go into today’s match with confidence high, having made his first significant score against India following a previous aggregate of 11 runs in three innings. “I was happy with how it went. My previous record against India – the last few games we’ve played – hasn’t been very good at all,” he said. “So I was happy I managed to go out there and showed them that I can play.”
He was immediately on the attack, as is his wont, and it paid off with seven fours and two sixes. “I think you have to be [confident] in Twenty20. You haven’t really got time to feel out of nick. I tried to take advantage of the ball coming on nicely with the seamers at the start, and fortunately it paid off. That’s been my game ever since I was a little lad. It’s something I thrive on, and I hope I can keep doing well with it.”
Hales has benefited from England’s commitment, in a series of Performance Programme training camps, to prepare their young players for the challenges of sub-continental cricket. “I found [the conditions] quite good. I’ve done a lot of work out here over the last year. We had an EPP training camp in Pune last year; the Lions tour was in Sri Lanka, and obviously the World Cup was as well. So I’ve had a good bit of experience over here, and I’ve enjoyed my cricket here. It’s been a very enjoyable year.”
England were unable to follow Hales’ lead on Thursday, when only Jos Buttler also prospered with the bat, and then the pace bowlers – debutant Stuart Meaker apart – were off their game and never looked likely to defend a vulnerable target.
But Hales said: “Obviously, we’re disappointed with Thursday’s result – but we’re going to bounce back with a lot of energy.”