Alex Hales believes Nottinghamshire's batting line-up is among the best in the country and can spearhead them to the County Championship title this season.

The 24-year-old is one of six internationals that could feature in the Notts top seven when they begin their four-day campaign against Middlesex at Trent Bridge next Thursday.

Wicket-keeper and captain Chris Read, James Taylor and Samit Patel have all represented England at Test level, the latter two in the last year, while newly-recruited overseas player Ed Cowan currently holds a place at the top of the Australian order.

"The batting unit and the squad we have at our disposal is definitely up there with the best around the country."

Michael Lumb was a Twenty20 World Cup winner with England in 2010, and has established himself in the shortest form of the game as a regular international opening partner for Hales, who thinks Notts' batting card is a match for any of their rivals in Division One.

"The batting unit and the squad we have at our disposal is definitely up there with the best around the country," he said.

"We have always done very well in April and May, on seaming wickets at Trent Bridge, so we are feeling confident going into those first few games.

"But at the same time, there are lots of teams in Division One who have got very strong sides so everyone will think they have a chance of winning it this year."

The 2010 County champions will look to put themselves in contention for another four-day trophy and Hales added: "I definitely think it is a realistic ambition with our squad.

"There are also other very strong counties around.

"Yorkshire have made some very good signings, Warwickshire, who won it last year, and I think Middlesex as well.

"They have got a very strong seam attack so I think they will all be up there too."

Having just returned from luxurious Barbados, where Notts triumphed in a T20 tournament that also involved Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, Hales is now focusing on red-ball cricket and preparing for the Division One opener.

And with the British weather likely to provide early-season problems for batsmen, in particular, Hales admits the two-day friendly at home to Leicestershire, which starts today, will be a valuable opportunity for the top-order players to get more time at the crease.

Hales scored 96 and Taylor a century on Monday in Notts' first Trent Bridge friendly of the week against Northants and will be looking to build consistency at this early stage of the campaign.

"I think that is what the friendlies are for, for our top six or seven to get as much time at the crease as they can," added the tall opener.

"We have played well at Trent Bridge at the start of the season for the last couple of years and I think it is important that we repeat that this year."

While Notts already boast plenty of international pedigree in their batting line-up, Hales is seeking further England recognition this summer.

The 2011 Professional Cricketers' Association Young Player of the Year has become a key component in England's Twenty20 team, averaging 37.42 in 17 innings, but is now looking for an opportunity in the longer formats.

He is hoping his T20 performances, combined with a large run haul for Notts, may earn him a call-up to the 50-over squad for the ICC Champions Trophy in June, which is being staged in this country.

"Hopefully I can do well for Notts at the start of the season and get in the frame for the Champions Trophy," he said.

"I've done as well as I can when I have put on an England shirt for the T20s, but one-day cricket is a different game and I have still got a lot of work to do.

"If a Lions game comes along, there are still a lot of opportunities for me to do well and get in the frame for that."

The Nottingham Post will provide extensive cricket coverage throughout the season with previews, reports and features published online and in the paper.