Cricket

Alex Hales hit 99 as England took a 2-0 lead over South Africa.

Alex Hales ready for next challenges after match-winning innings

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Alex Hales proved his adaptability in England's one-day international victory over South Africa in Port Elizabeth - but readily accepts there are more challenges ahead for him.

Hales' man-of-the-match 99 on a testing surface at St George's Park demonstrated that he is no 'flat-track bully' as he provided the substance for a five-wicket win, chasing down the hosts' 262 for seven.

It was also a welcome second successive half-century after his Test travails in his maiden series here.

Hales managed only one score above 50 in eight attempts as Alastair Cook's latest opening partner during England's 2-1 series win.

He therefore knows that, at the start of next summer, he will still have to go some way first of all to earn an extended run in the Test team and then to convince his doubters in that format.

Against the white ball, though, few can have too many reservations at present about his ability.

Hales rued missing an international century by just a single for the second time in the limited-overs formats - having also made 99 in a Twenty20 match against West Indies on his home ground at Trent Bridge in 2012.

"It was obviously a very disappointing way to get out," he said, having been caught behind attempting to pull Kyle Abbott.

"Of all the deliveries you could get on 99, one on your hip is the one you want.

"But that's the way the game goes, and I'm pleased I contributed - and that now we're two from two."

England are indeed 2-0 up with three to play, as they seek to add ODI success to the surprise Test win which knocked South Africa off their number one perch in the rankings.

Hales can point to that collective success but admits he needs to improve to stay in the Test team.

"Obviously, on a personal note, it didn't go to plan," said the 27-year-old.

"I've still got a lot to learn ... but it was something I really enjoyed, and I was really proud to be part of a winning series.

"Coming here and beating the number one team in the world was a very proud effort."

He identifies uncertainty of shot selection as his most pressing problem in the longer format.

"A couple of times, I was caught in two minds about whether to defend or attack - particularly outside off-stump," he said.

"That's something I have to go back and work on in the nets.

"But at the same time it was a great learning curve, and a great place to come and play my first Test series in a really tough environment."

As for whether he is retained next summer, initially against Sri Lanka, he said: "I guess we'll find out.

"If I get a chance in the summer, it's up to me to take it.

"I felt in good touch coming into this one-day series, and it's up to me to go back home and work on my four-day cricket as well."

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