The Test career of Alex Hales to date has consisted solely of watching from the wrong side of the boundary, carrying drinks and working on his fitness. On the current tour of South Africa, that could all be about to change.
As one of two specialist openers selected to tour the United Arab Emirates for the three match series against Pakistan, Hales looked set for a Test match debut somewhat earlier in the winter.
The idea of an off-spinning all-rounder in Moeen Ali at the top of the order to balance the side gathered momentum during the build-up to the series, and was eventually the way Trevor Bayliss decided to go.
Hales insists he was content with 12th man duties in the UAE, but with National Selector James Whitaker having confirmed at the time of the squad announcement that Hales can expect to open, the opener is now chomping at the bit to take on the number one side in the world.
“There was no disappointment at not playing any of the Tests,” he said. “It was the first time I’ve been involved in red ball cricket with England.
“To make that step in my career was big for me and hopefully the start of something. If I get any chances in South Africa I know I’ve got to take them.
“I hope the chance comes along. It’s up to me to take it.
“I had a taste of it in a warm up games I played in the UAE and I had the chance to work on my skills in the nets. I still believe I’m ready.
“I guess you never really know until you’re out in that arena. I’ve done all the work I can in the nets and hopefully I’m ready.
“Not playing in the UAE was a great chance to develop my skills and work on the fitness part of my game,” Hales continued.
“The last two years have been constant playing really so to have a month or so of working on areas of my game was good for me still.”
For a man who has played the vast majority of his cricket in England, conditions in South Africa ought to be less alien than the sub-continent. It’s an environment in which Hales believes he can excel.
“I hope it suits my game out there,” he said. “I can’t see the conditions being too different to what you get in England.
“They’re the number one team in the world so I guess playing them away is as hard as it comes when you look at their bowling attack. It’s a great challenge for me but it’s about having self-confidence and believing in yourself.”
The 2015 season has seen dramatic last-gasp four day victories, thrilling limited-overs contests and an historic Investec Ashes Test, all in the unique surroundings of Trent Bridge.
Next season, we’d wager, will be no less enthralling and frankly we’d hate for you to miss out.