Alex Hales spent the end of last season playing for Nottinghamshire’s Second XI after averaging just 13.94 in 18 County Championship innings.
Now, less than 12 months on, he is being talked up as a potential opening partner for Alastair Cook in next summer’s Ashes and hailed as the answer to England’s pedestrian progress in one-day cricket in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup.
It has been quite some turnaround but the man watching his pyrotechnics from the opposite end believes that Hales has what it takes to bring his approach in the county game successfully into the international arena.
Michael Lumb is no slouch himself, boasting a strike rate of 133 in 27 Twenty20 internationals for England, but even he has been forced to take a back seat as Hales has destroyed attacks in all forms of the game this summer.
And after being called up for England’s one-day series against India, the IPL and Big Bash performer is backing his opening partner to cement his reputation as one of most destructive batsmen in the world game.
“He has been awesome,” Lumb tells The Independent. “He has played really well and [his call-up] is really deserved. He’s going to play a big part in the future of English cricket.
“He’s very talented and a dangerous player in all formats. He’s a match-winner and the sort of guy who puts the pressure back on the opposition bowlers. He’s the sort of player that England have been looking for – he’s going to be exciting to watch.”
Excitement has been short on the ground when watching England play one-day cricket in recent years, with a safety-first approach to building an innings out of kilter with the crash, bang, wallop attitude demonstrated by the likes of Australia.
The big-hitting trio of David Warner, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell have once again turned the Aussies into a formidable one-day outfit.
But the emergence of Hales, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes has handed England the chance to build a young side capable of competing in next winter’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Key to their success, though, will be the ability of Hales to bring his T20 game into the longer format.
“He’s right up there as one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket,” says Lumb. “When he’s on form there aren’t many places you can bowl to him.
“He has definitely put himself in that top bracket with the likes of [Chris] Gayle and these guys. When he’s on song there’s not much you can do as a bowler.”
Lumb can consider himself unlucky not to be part of England’s one-day revolution. The big-hitting left-hander is averaging 43 in the Royal London One-Day Cup for Nottinghamshire, hitting just 21 runs fewer than Hales in the competition so far.
He also scored a century in a losing cause on his one-day debut for England in Antigua in February. That was followed by scores of 39 and 20 as England came back to claim the three-match series against West Indies 2-1.
Frustratingly, though, these remain Lumb’s only international appearances in 50-over cricket and after he was left out of this series against India it looks as though his World Cup ship may already have sailed.
“I’m not miffed this time [after missing out on selection] but I was a couple of months ago,” he says. “In fact, miffed would be quite a tame word.
“I think I walked out of that West Indies as one of the best batters on that tour, white ball and 50-over cricket. I thought that given the opportunity I had grabbed it with both hands. England obviously thought differently.”Reuse content