Few players can have enjoyed quite so thrilling an introduction to the national cricketing conscience as Alex Hales had.
It was 2005, the setting was Lords, and the 16 year old Hales was making hay. Picked originally as a fast bowler for the London County Cricket Club’s Founders Day tournament, he smashed 114 not out.
This included a mammoth 55 runs off just one over and a further three sixes off former England spinner Min Patel in a wonderful spell of power hitting.
It was an innings which prompted tournament organiser Neil Burns to remarks: “I have never seen hitting like that in my life. Few of us have seen 36 hit off an over, let alone 55.”
It was an innings which marked Hales out as truly special talent, and nothing which anyone has seen from him since has dissuaded anyone otherwise.
Indeed it is a style which he has managed to bring to the County game, where he has scored runs-and plenty of them-with a sound technique and an ability to clear the boundary with apparent ease-benefitting from his huge 6ft 5in frame.
His time at Notts has been short-he only signed for them in 2007-but right from the off he has scored runs.
While on trial at the club, he hit 218 against Derbyshire Second XI, then after a season of development in 2008-where he averaged 50 for the England under 19 team in Test matches-he began to really make his mark in 2009.
He hit two List A hundreds in the Pro 40 and 50 over matches against Worcestershire and Ireland, the first an exhilarating 150 off just 102 balls.
Since then he has scarcely looked back, scoring his maiden first class century in May against Hampshire-an innings of patience and application which showed he had more to his game than just clean hitting.
Meanwhile in the T20-he and Ali Brown, two clean hitters at the opposite end of the spectrum-have set Nottinghamshire away to some lightening starts. Hales himself has hit 320 runs at an average of just under 30, with a strike rate of 148-including the fifth fastest fifty in T20 history with 50 off 16 balls against Derbyshire.
Often he has outperformed his senior partner, no mean fit against a man who put the hit into a pinch hit, yet despite his tender years Hales continues to excel like a man far beyond them.
The question now is when, not if, he progresses to full international honours. Ideally given his style and position in the Nottinghamshire domestic sides, a position at the top of England’s T20 and One Day line-ups would be his best route into the England set-up.
It is a route which many-including as shrewd a judge as Mike Atherton-believe he is capable of making, and one day all those who watched a young fast bowler smash bowlers to all parts of Lords may yet be able to say they saw the start of something very special.
What They Say
“At his best, Hales’ clean striking of the cricket ball is breathtaking, and marks him down as a genuine crowd-pleaser. (Hales’) star may shine even brighter in the weeks and months to come.” Neil Burns, managing director of London County Cricket Club.
“For a young player he looked dominant against us last year. He’s a big, strong lad and seemed mentally in tune as well.” Will Smith, former Durham captain.
“Alex has all the attributes and plays fantastically straight. He’s shown in one-day cricket what he’s capable of. He needs to convert the potential into quality four-day cricket. We believe he has the potential to do that.” Paul Johnson, Notts Batting Coach.