By Matt Someford
Alex Hales is determined prove he is the right man to lead England’s World Cup campaign from the top of the order.
Hales has been identified as the man to partner skipper Alastair Cook and provide England with the platform for success in the Antipodes this winter.
The 25-year-old has long established himself in Twenty20 cricket - his powerful style took him to the top of the world’s sprint-format rankings last year - but a 50-over debut had to wait until two days’ ago at the SWALEC Stadium.
While England suffered a 133-run Duckworth-Lewis Method defeat for Hales it was hopefully the start of a long journey in one-day international cricket.
The tall right-hander admits the occasion was a “dream come true” despite the result – an understandable reaction given the work he has put in over the past 18 months to earn his opportunity.
Hales endured a difficult domestic season last year and was briefly loaned out to Worcestershire earlier this summer in the four-day game because he did not fit into Nottinghamshire’s top order.
It now looms as a key moment in his career as ever since Hales has hit a purple patch of form in all formats – most significantly 50-over cricket where he scored three Royal London Cup centuries before adding another for England Lions against Sri Lanka A earlier this month.
"It's a dream come true, particularly after how last season went in first-class cricket," Hales said of his ascent to ODI ranks.
"I've had to work really hard to show people I can be more than just a Twenty20 slogger.
"I'm really happy this opportunity has come along."
The faith shown by the selectors has been reflected in his orders from Cook and Head Coach Peter Moores, who have advised Hales to stick with what has worked for him in Notts colours.
With that in mind Hales has been able to shelve the pressure of making the step up, concentrating instead on the job at hand.
“I think that (pressure) is part and parcel of playing international cricket,” he said.
“There’s always going to be that pressure but Mooresy and Cookie have said to me to just go out and do what you have done for Notts and we’ll get behind you all the way.
“I’m just trying to keep it simple and keep my attacking intent.”
Asked what he has done to improve his 50-over over fortunes, Hales added: “In 20-over cricket you strike at around 130-140 and you’ve got so much more time in one-day cricket.
“With two new white balls you can do a lot of scoring at the back end of the innings, especially with the fielding restrictions as well.
“For me it is about giving myself more time at the top and then cashing in later when it is easier to score.”
Hales was able to provide a glimpse of his power on his introduction to the 50-over game in Cardiff, top-scoring with 40 and enjoying a half-century stand with Cook before the innings unravelled.
He enjoyed batting alongside his skipper and, while it is only early days, thinks the green shoots of a profitable partnership are already being laid down.
“It’s only been one game but to get off to a fifty start is pretty good,” he said.
“We’re still learning about each other’s games and talking to each other in the nets about where our single options are and what our boundary options are. Hopefully we can forge a good partnership heading into the World Cup.
“I think if we both play our natural games then hopefully that partnership will forge together.
“The job of the top-four in one-day cricket is to get hundreds. Someone has to put their hand up and score a big hundred for the team.
“That’s the role of the top four – for someone to go big. Hopefully our games can feed off each other and we can get that big partnership going.”
For now England’s most pressing concern is bouncing back from going 1-0 down in the series in Cardiff.
They head to Hales' home turf at Trent Bridge for the third Royal London match looking to learn the lessons from that defeat.
“We’re not hiding behind the fact that it was a poor team performance all round,” he said.
“We spoke about it, wiped a clean slate and spoke about our tactics for tomorrow. We’re feeling fresh and confident heading into the game.”