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Hales looking for ‘big runs’ to boost England hopes

The Nottinghamshire batsman will be under pressure to perform at Trent Bridge against Australia.

Alex Hales has another shot at centre stage on his home ground but admits he may again be a bit-part player for England unless he makes big runs soon.

It was at Trent Bridge, venue for Tuesday’s third one-day international as England seek an unassailable series lead over Australia, that Hales hit a then national-record 171 in an all-time high total of 444 for three against Pakistan in 2016.

Thanks to a vexed sequence of events – starting with his suspension last September following a night out in Bristol which left team-mate Ben Stokes facing a charge of affray – Hales has lost his opener’s slot.

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Hales has lost his place at the top of the England batting order (Nigel French/PA)

Instead, he follows Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy – the new holder of England’s highest ODI score after making 180 in Melbourne in January – and acknowledges that when Stokes recovers fitness, his claims to any place in the order will be tenuous.

Asked if he may be dropped, Hales said: “That’ll probably happen, with my batting at three.

“That’s what happened when we went from Australia into the New Zealand series (last winter).

“It can change quickly. It’s up to me to use these three games well and try and score as many runs as possible … [keep] putting pressure on those two.”

Hales accepts there is extra pressure on him, adding:  “Obviously. I’ve got to try and get my place back.

“Those two have come in and done really well since the West Indies series.

“Jonny’s been knocking the door down for a few years now, and every time he got a chance, he took it.

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Jonny Bairstow, left, and Jason Roy, right, have joined forces as England’s opening pair (Paul Harding/PA)

“I guess now I’m in that position, where I’m on the fringe and any chance I can get, it’s up to me to convert big runs.”

Hales caused a stir with his winter decision to forsake first-class cricket in favour of white-ball only to try to fine-tune his preparations for next year’s World Cup.

Since then, he has made two ODI half-centuries – and for England, Nottinghamshire and Sunrisers Hyderabad, passed 50 just once in his last 10 innings.

It’s up to me to convert big runs. Alex Hales

He concedes it has yet to be proven whether he has made the right call in becoming a temporary specialist.

“It’s a bit of a grey area as to whether I’ll get enough volume (of cricket),” he said. “There’s pros and cons.

“At the moment, it’s unknown territory.

“I guess I’ll know more myself in the next six to eight months. At the moment I’m happy with my decision, and will reassess in 18 months.”

In the immediate term, he could do with revisiting those Trent Bridge deeds of 2016.

“I feel confident heading into the game tomorrow,” he said, ruing nonetheless his failure to add to his 52 in England’s shock defeat to Scotland after contributing just five and 26 in the opening two ODI wins over Australia.

“I was disappointed not to get over the line (against Scotland). I got into a good position, and gave it away a little bit.

“I’m searching for my form a little bit, but I felt I got a really decent ball (against Australia) at Cardiff.

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Captain Eoin Morgan is set to return to the England fold on Tuesday (John Walton/PA)

“Mentally, I feel pretty good and playing at (my) home ground, where I’ve got a good record, I hope I can put in a big performance.”

England are set to be led by Eoin Morgan, fit again after the back spasm which ruled him out over the weekend to take the reins back from Jos Buttler, with Sam Billings the obvious candidate to make way in the middle order.

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