Pakistan v England: Free-scoring Hales in the driving seat to partner Cook

England's Alex Hales celebrates reaching his century against Pakistan in the second ODI on Friday . AP/Hafsal Ahmed
England's Alex Hales celebrates reaching his century against Pakistan in the second ODI on Friday . AP/Hafsal Ahmed
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Alex Hales will treasure the moment he came of age as a one-day international batsman, with his maiden hundred in his 21st innings.

The opener’s 109 was the cornerstone of England’s 95-run win over Pakistan as they levelled the series at 1-1 with two to play.

It was also a breakthrough performance in this format for the 26-year-old, who already has a Twenty20 international century to his name – the only one by an Englishman – and next month will almost certainly have the opportunity to try to make it a full house in Test cricket, on the tour of South Africa.

The squad for that tough mission will be named next week, with Hales the obvious contender to become Alastair Cook’s latest opening partner following the failed experiment of pushing Moeen Ali up the order in the 2-0 series defeat against Pakistan here.

At the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Hales’s first ODI century underpinned England’s 283-5, in stands of 102 with Jason Roy (54) and then 114 with Joe Root (63) for the first two wickets.

Pakistan’s reply was then never remotely competitive, as David Willey (3-25) and Chris Woakes (4-33) helped bowl them out for 188 in 45.5 overs.

Hales therefore had reason for much personal satisfaction with his return to form following a run of low scores in the Royal London Series against Australia at the end of last summer.

He said: “This is a very special feeling, and something I’ll remember for a long time – and it’s also given us a chance as a team to win this series in tough conditions.

“I was obviously very disappointed with how the Australia series went – and coming over here, being part of the Test squad, was a brand new challenge for me.

“I’ve had a good five, six weeks – getting used to conditions, with a lot of time in the nets against spin – and I’m pleased to get some rewards tonight.”

His and England’s next pressing task will be to try to close out series victory in Sharjah and then Dubai and – for that reason – he is determined to put thoughts of South Africa out of his mind.

“That’s something I’m trying hard not to think about,” added Hales.

“That tour is a different series, a different format against a different country.

“All that’s in my mind now is trying to win these two games, and this series here, against Pakistan.”

Roy was the driving force in England’s opening stand, but it was Hales who stayed the course into the 39th over.

“I felt in okay touch the other night, but then played a bit of a loose shot early on,” he said, recalling his dismissal for 10 in England’s six-wicket defeat at the same stadium just two days earlier.

“Tonight, I managed to give myself a bit of time ... and go on to a big score.”

All England’s top five have passed 50 after the two matches to date.

Hales said: “Big runs at the top of the order are massively important – because as the innings tends to progress, it becomes tougher to score towards the end of it.

“As a top three or four, it’s important we convert those starts into big scores.”

Pakistan failed to do any such thing in reply, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed (64) the only batsman – coming in at No 7 – to offer any kind of resistance.

His captain Azhar Ali said: “The bowlers really did well.

“I’m pretty much satisfied with them – they bowled their heart out.

“Especially in the last few overs, they didn’t give anything to England.

“I think they did their job, but the batsman kind of let the team down.”

Hales’s hundred came on a date universally associated with ill-deeds and misfortune.

But, in his diary at least, it will have only good future connotations.

“I didn’t even know it was Friday the 13th,” he said, with a smile.

“That’s how much attention I paid to it – but for me, I guess that’s a lucky day now.”