Alex Hales’s international exile is over, after he was called up as an injury replacement to England’s squads for the upcoming tour of Pakistan and T20 World Cup in Australia.
Hales has not played for England since March 2019 after he was dropped from the squad for that year’s World Cup following the revelation that he had twice tested positive for recreational drugs.
This, coupled with other misdemeanours including his involvement in Ben Stokes’ Bristol brawl of 2017, led to then-captain Eoin Morgan and other senior players deciding that Hales – then the reserve batter in the squad – should be dropped. Morgan described the situation as a “complete breakdown of trust”.
This summer, though, a series of events have conspired to bring him back into the fold. First, Morgan retired which, coupled with the appointment of Rob Key as managing director of cricket, led to a softening of the stance.
Then Jason Roy suffered a dramatic loss of form, which led to him being dropped last Friday. At almost exactly the same time that squad was announced, Bairstow suffered his “freak” injury.
Hales, 33, was then the candidate with the most pedigree for a call-up as his excellent T20 form has not let up throughout his time away from the international game. Hales was England’s first T20 centurion and has more than 10,000 runs in the format, as well as a strong record in ODIs.
He has leap-frogged Surrey’s Will Jacks, who was already in the squad for the seven matches in Pakistan this month, to a place in the World Cup XV. Jacks has had a superb summer in all formats.
It seems likely that, having gone to the trouble of recalling Hales, he will go straight into the XI at the World Cup, although Phil Salt was already in the squad as a spare opener. It is also possible that Dawid Malan or Stokes are bumped up the order, with Harry Brook coming into the middle order.
Key revealed last week that Hales had called him to protest his continued absence, and has declared a belief that he “served his time”. He was also confident that there would be no animosity among the squad despite, in his recent documentary, Stokes describing Hales as “his friend at the time” of the Bristol incident (suggesting a breakdown in that relationship).
Either way, his is a significant call from the nascent Jos Buttler-Matthew Mott leadership, and is the latest departure from the Morgan era.
Hales has had an uncanny knack of becoming caught up in English cricket’s biggest scandals in recent years. Beyond the Bristol incident and his drugs ban, Hales apologised after a picture of him in blackface emerged during cricket’s race reckoning, while Azeem Rafiq alleged last year under parliamentary privilege that England players called people of colour “Kevin”, the name of Hales’ Doberman.