Alex Hales has admitted he needs “big runs” if he is to force his way back into England’s first-choice ODI side ahead of the World Cup.
Hales, who initially lost his place in the side when he was suspended in the aftermath of the incident in Bristol in which Ben Stokes was arrested, is currently back in the team but knows that, once Stokes returns from injury, he is likely to make way.
While Hales’ long-term record is very good – he averages 36.22 in ODI cricket with five centuries and a strike-rate of 94.29 – he has been replaced at the top of the order by Jonny Bairstow, who has hit five centuries since winning a chance at the top of the order in September, and Jason Roy, who replaced Hales in the side after the Bristol incident and made scores of 84, 96 and 180 in his next three innings.
And with Hales averaging a modest 27.11 (with a strike-rate of 79.47) in the nine games since the episode in Bristol, he accepts he is now “on the fringes” of the side.
“I’ve got to try and get my place back,” Hales said ahead of the third ODI of the Royal London series in Nottingham. “I guess now I’m in that position where I’m on the fringes and any chance I can get, it’s up to me to convert big runs and put some pressure on Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.
“They have come in and done really well since the West Indies series last September. Jonny’s been knocking the door down for a few years now and every time he got a chance, he took it.
“Looking at the way things are now, I’m the one who drops out once Stokes comes back. That’s what happened when we went from Australia into the New Zealand series.
“But things can change quickly. It’s up to me to use these three games well and try and score as many runs as possible. It’s up to me to make sure I can stay in form, stay confident and keeping putting pressure on those two.
“It’s absolutely my aim to win back a place in the side ahead of the World Cup. But we have a very strong squad, with some seriously talented players who can’t get in it. It’s good healthy competition and it keeps everyone on their toes. It keeps everyone striving to improve, which is important.”
Hales is, at least, back in familiar surroundings. Back on his home pitch at Trent Bridge, he has the confidence of knowing he recorded his career-best ODI score – 171 against Pakistan – here in 2016, as well making 99 in his only IT20 match here, against West Indies, in 2012.
“If I could pick a venue to bat at this would be it, particularly in white-ball cricket,” he said. “I’m desperate to score some runs, particularly at my home ground. I’m lucky enough to have a good record here.”
Hales’ top score so far this season was 52 at The Grange last week, but after being culpable in the run-out of Joe Root, he was unable to prevent England from slumping to a historic first loss against Scotland.
“I was disappointed not to get over the line against Scotland,” he said. “I got into a good position there and gave it away a little bit. I’m searching for my form a little bit but, in the nets, I’ve been practising really well.
“I felt I got a really decent ball at Cardiff. Mentally, I feel pretty good and playing at our home ground, where I’ve got a good record, hopefully I can put in a big performance.”