Chris Read has challenged Alex Hales to kick on from his second County Championship century and reach 1,000 first-class runs in a season for the first time in his young career.
The 22-year-old passed 500 in his stylish and significant knock against Somerset against Trent Bridge, only the tenth Championship innings of a summer that was interrupted by a bouncer from Ajmal Shahzad that left him nursing a broken jaw.
With Notts playing their ninth game out of 16, that puts Hales on course to pass four figures – although possible selection for the England Lions in August could yet throw another spanner in the works.
“It’s been a fantastic innings, and just what he needed,” said Read, the Notts captain. “But from my point of view he just needs to do more of it. There has been a lot of chat about how good Alex is in one-day cricket, and that’s fair enough. But the hard graft is in the Championship – we all know how good he is when we’re on the telly in Twenty20 and stuff. I’d like to see him go on and get 1,000 first class runs, which would be a good achievement considering the cricket he missed when he was injured.”
Hales agreed with his skipper, saying: “There is still a lot of cricket to be played this year. It’s taken me a few games to get back into the swing of things after the injury, but I’m feeling better now. There’s still a lot of work to do with Notts before I consider any form of international cricket.”
He admitted to feeling “nervy” as he neared three figures after being dismissed three times in the 80s already this season, and three times in the 90s last summer since his previous first-class century against Hampshire.
But he made the breakthrough with his 15th four off Murali Kartik, who was also the victim of a majestic six stroked effortlessly over long off immediately after he had reached 50.
However Hales, who seems destined to be known for a while as Helix after being accidentally renamed in a Sunday Times feature last weekend, was grateful for a couple of let-offs from the Somerset fielders that showed the occasional lapse in concentration that remains his most obvious weakness.
He offered a difficult chance on 59 and an easier one on 68, when he cut Kartik loosely to backward point, while a couple of crazy calls much earlier in his innings would have left both Riki Wessels and Samit Patel stranded by a direct hit.
So there is still plenty to work on, which is also the case for Stuart Broad despite his welcome return to wicket-taking form in Somerset’s first innings.
Broad polished off three of the five remaining wickets on the second morning to complete his first five-wicket haul since he routed Warwickshire at Edgbaston last July, and the delivery that dismissed the young Somerset seamer Adam Dibble was an absolute beauty.
Whereas Broad helped set up victories over both Warwicks and Somerset in his only two Championship appearances last season, his county availability earlier this summer had coincided with the start of their losing run, as they were heavily beaten by both Sussex at Hove and Warwickshire at Trent Bridge.
Now, thanks to Hales’s century, the 2010 champions are well-placed to end a run that has stretched to four straight defeats, and possibly to push for a much-needed victory.