England Test captain Ben Stokes insisted he and the recalled Alex Hales share a dream of winning the T20 World Cup as he dodged a question about their personal relationship.
Hales’ lengthy international exile is over after he replaced the injured Jonny Bairstow in Matthew Mott’s squad for next month’s tournament in Australia.
The Nottinghamshire batter has not represented his country for three and a half years, having been dumped on the eve of the 2019 World Cup following two failed recreational drug tests.
Alex Hales has also been added to our squads for the #T20WorldCup and IT20 tour of Pakistan 🏏
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 7, 2022
All-rounder Stokes was once close with Hales before that bond deteriorated in the aftermath of a late-night incident outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017, which led to the former being charged with, and ultimately acquitted of, affray.
Stokes welcomed back Hales by describing him as “one of the best T20 players in the world” but gave short shrift to being quizzed on their association away from the field.
“My goal, Alex’s goal and everyone else’s goal who is part of that squad is to win the World Cup,” said Stokes, on the eve of England’s Test decider against South Africa at the Kia Oval.
“Alex is definitely one of the best T20 players in the world and unfortunately with what happened with Jonny we had to call another player up.
“Alex is definitely one of the guys that bowlers don’t want to be bowling at in the T20 format.”
Asked about his current relationship with Hales and if the pair had spoken recently, Stokes bluntly replied: “We’ve both got the same goal to win World Cups.”
Hales was not charged with any wrongdoing following the Bristol incident but it is understood his subsequent behaviour left Stokes and other senior players feeling let down.
In his recently released documentary, ‘Phoenix from the Ashes’, Stokes discusses the brawl and pointedly refers to Hales as “my friend at the time”.
Former England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan attributed Hales’ lengthy international absence to a trust issue.
Asked if that had now been corrected, Stokes said: “I’ve not been in the leadership capacity in the white-ball group for however long.
“I’ve obviously been resting and stuff like that.
“But when it comes down to the big moments in games and World Cup games, knockout games, you want your best players there to be taking that pressure on and he (Hales) certainly is one of those.”
England have made one change for the series decider, handing a Test debut to 23-year-old Yorkshire batter Harry Brook in place of his sidelined county team-mate Bairstow.
“He deserved his opportunity to be in the squad initially and he deserves his opportunity this week,” Stokes said of Brook.
“I think I mentioned a few weeks ago he will be someone who represents England in all three formats for a long time, so it’s exciting to see him get his opportunity this week with the whites on.
“I’m really looking forward to watching him go out and play this week.”