England’s Alex Hales under pressure to prove himself ahead of opening Test against South Africa

England bowler Stuart Broad.
England bowler Stuart Broad.
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ALEX HALES’S audition as England’s new opener suffered a second setback in as many days in their first tour match in Potchefstroom.

The uncapped Nottinghamshire batsman has been pencilled in to partner Alastair Cook in the first Test against South Africa on Boxing Day, but has struggled against a modest Invitational XI at Senwes Park.

Hales contributed just eight in a first-innings total of 470 and could only manage the same again in an atypically passive knock that spanned almost an hour and occupied 42 deliveries.

Immediately after he fell, deflecting Junior Dala into his own stumps off the back foot, Hales threw back his head in frustration and it would be easy to imagine head coach Trever Bayliss doing the same.

England closed on 99 -3, 381 ahead and with a three-day victory in sight, but there is just one more outing, against a strong South Africa A side, before the series proper.

Hales, who is such a threat in limited-overs cricket, must already be considering how much to curb his natural aggression in that match.

In the field, the hosts were bundled out for 188, with useful workouts for Stuart Broad (3-18) and Ben Stokes, who added two wickets to his earlier 158 with the bat. But another aspiring Test candidate, Mark Footitt, had a mixed day.

He claimed his first two wickets in a Three Lions shirt, with an lbw and a caught behind, but lacked control.

In 12 overs he leaked 51 runs, particularly high given the opponents and the flow of the game, and was despatched to the boundary on nine occasions.

England declared on their overnight score of 470-7 and Broad soon set about opening his account for the trip.

South Africa Under-19 captain Aiden Markram succumbed to a fourth-ball duck, held low at slip by Cook, while Luthando Mnyanda lost his off stump to an inside edge.

Footitt was less solid. With one delivery left in his first six-over burst he had conceded 28 runs and drawn a single meaningful edge that went uncaught. But he managed to sign off with a wicket, tempting Zubayr Hamza outside off and seeing Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow claim a fine one-handed catch.

The hosts took lunch at 86-5, the accurate Chris Woakes and Stokes joining the attack and accounting for Simon Khomkari and Somile Seyibokwe.

There was a brief counter-attack at the start of the afternoon session, despite James Anderson joining the attack for four overs as England’s 12th player in the match.

Footitt halted a promising sixth-wicket partnership on 62 when Qaasim Adams (34) was judged lbw.

Moeen Ali’s first wicket, Stokes’ssecond and an unfortunate run-out at the non-striker’s end left the Invitational XI nine down, but the pairing of Mnyaka and Johannes Diseko kept the tourists out in the mid-day sun for almost 15 additional overs, putting on 51.

Hales was awkward at the crease from the off, taking 19 balls to get off the mark.

After picking up four from a misfield at third man, Hales played indeterminately at a short ball from Dala and forced it into his own stumps.

Cook made 37 before being trapped lbw and Nick Compton managed 15.The evening ended with Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Gary Ballance together, no doubt eyeing more batting practice.