One to Watch: Alex Hales – Nottinghamshire CCC

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.

Standing tall at 6ft 5in

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.

Hitting big, as always

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.

One to Watch: Simon Kerrigan – Lancashire CCC

When it was announced that Gary Keedy had broken a collarbone during pre-season, you could have forgiven Lancashire fans from being slightly wary about what lay ahead for a county whose pace bowling ranks have always overshadowed their spinners.

But after a season of steady gains in the Lancashire second XI last year, Lancashire coach Peter Moores took a big gamble in selecting Simon Kerrigan, a young left-arm spinner, and he wasn’t to be disappointed.

Thrown into the deep end of Lancashire’s first game of the season against Warwickshire, Kerrigan picked up two first innings wickets, notable ones in Ian Bell and Tim Ambrose.

Dream Lancs debut

But better was to come in the second innings, when having set Warwickshire 318 to win, Kerrigan picked up figures of 5-43 in 17 overs, ripping the heart out of their middle order and effectively sealing Lancashire’s win.

The 21-year old’s figures were the best posted by a Lancashire bowler in 21 years since Mick Malone took 7-88 v Notts at Blackpool in 1979

He then carried this form onto the next match, where in seaming conditions, he bowled sparingly but still managed to pick up match figures of 1-17 from 17.4 overs.

Since his early start, while Kerrigan has yet to match the heights of his debut, he has not appeared overawed by the rigours of first class cricket-maintaining an economy rate of under 3 and an average of 21.57.

In a recent FP20 match against Northamptonshire, the young left-arm spinner played a vital part in Lancashire’s victory-taking 3-17 as Northamptonshire were skittled out for just 88.

With Gary Keedy possibly heading towards the latter end of his long and distinguished career with the county, it appears that in Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire may have found a more-than ready replacement waiting in the wings.

What They Say

“Keggsy’s a good bowler. It doesn’t matter that it’s his first game; there was never any doubt about chucking him the ball.

“He’s got a lot of belief in his own ability, he’s an intelligent bowler, and he knows what he’s about. That’s a great thing for me as captain.” Lancashire captain Glen Chapple

“Simon’s done a great job so far for us and he’s got real skill. He’s got the ability to run the ball on and get turn so he attacks both edges which all spinners try to do.” Lancashire coach Peter Moores

“(He) really is an outstanding prospect with a massive future in the game, and has all the makings of overtaking Monty Panesar as the country’s number one left-arm spinner.” Former Lancashire and England batsman Mal Loye