Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales proves a point with 96 against Middlesex
Alex Hales gave another reminder that he can play four-day cricket with a swashbuckling 96 which led Nottinghamshire’s spirited fightback against Middlesex.
Hales became the first England batsman to score a Twenty20 international century against Sri Lanka this year but he is in danger of being pigeon-holed as a specialist in cricket’s shortest format.
England have yet to pick Hales in one-day international cricket and he also lost ground as a four-day player at county level last season when he scraped 251 runs in 18 innings and was dropped to the second team.
Hales joined Worcestershire on loan earlier this season when he was again overlooked by Nottinghamshire but he has prospered since he returned to Trent Bridge.
“I felt like I had a point to prove in red-ball cricket after last year,” Hales said. “It was a very long season for me and the end of it came at a nice time. I have had time to think about everything to do with red-ball cricket, my technique and where my mind was at and I feel refreshed and ready to go this year.”
Hales, who made 167 against Sussex at Hove two weeks ago, appeared on course for his second century in four innings until he was lbw shuffling in front to Tim Murtagh.
It was hard work for the seam bowlers on a pitch on which Middlesex’s Chris Rogers and Eoin Morgan had piled up 272 in the highest third-wicket stand anywhere in the country this season.
Hales made it a particularly tough day for Steven Finn by pummelling 30 in a 23-ball spell including four of his 16 boundaries in five balls.
Finn is still regaining form and confidence after his demoralising experience in Australia during the winter and Hales had encouraging words for his England team-mate.
“I think that’s the ruthless environment of professional sport,” Hales said. “He’s a world-class performer and he I’m sure he will definitely be back to his best very soon. He’s bowling with good pace and I’m sure the best is yet to come.”
Finn proved the point when he flattened Michael Lumb’s middle stump with a quicker ball to deny the left-hander when he was in sight of his first half-century of the season but fading light prevented Middlesex from using their seam bowlers in the final hour.
Instead Rogers had to deploy his spinners and Samit Patel and Riki Wessels made comfortable progress, adding 94 in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand, which nudged Nottinghamshire closer to their follow-on target of 356.
Middlesex’s total was based almost entirely on their record third-wicket partnership against Nottinghamshire with Paul Stirling’s 31 being their next best offering.
Riki Wessels’s dropped catch at first slip when Morgan had made only 20 proved expensive as the Irish left-hander made a championship-best 191 before he was caught behind hooking Luke Fletcher.