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Hales earning plaudits after passing big Test

By David Clough

England's innings victory over Sri Lanka at Headingley will be remembered for Jonny Bairstow and James Anderson's brilliance - but there was another individual performance to settle home nerves.

Alex Hales showed with his 86 that he may be a long-term solution to the problem of who accompanies captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order.

Assistant coach Paul Farbrace was suitably impressed, as he reflected on the most significant factors in England's surge into a 1-0 lead inside three days.

Hales' determination provided Bairstow with a foil, in a sixth-wicket stand of 141, as England turned 83 for five into 298 - more than enough for Anderson to run through the tourists twice on his way to outstanding match figures of 10 for 45.

"This innings will convince him he can play Test cricket," said Farbrace. "It's a shame he didn't get a hundred. But in the situation, 86 runs on that surface was a fantastic innings.

"There were a lot of people talking about his technique - 'Can he play Test cricket? Is he just a one-day player?'

"The big thing for him is (to feel) he can play Test cricket.

"There was an awful lot of talk from him about leaving the ball. He was determined not to get caught-behind, caught at slip, and know where his off stump was. I think that took him away from his strength, which is through the off side.

"His off side is a big scoring area - and if you take out one side of the field in Test cricket, when you don't get as many bad balls, you are making it hard for yourself to score runs.

"The idea of standing up and being more positive and looking to score through the off side made him look a lot better."

Hales undoubtedly passed his first test of the summer, after his patchy first series in South Africa. "He showed a lot of courage," said Farbrace. "Yes, he was under pressure coming into it - but more of his own making. A score just lifts that pressure off him.

"Jonny (Bairstow) is a prime example of someone coming in and getting a score and lifting the pressure. Then you can concentrate on playing, rather than wondering if I am going to play in the next game."

Before the hosts announce their squad for the second Test, starting in Durham at the end of the week, the main issue will surround the fitness of Ben Stokes - due for a scan yesterday, after limping off the field in Leeds.

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