Alex Hales has made a dramatic return to the England fold having been selected for the T20 World Cup as a replacement for the injured Jonny Bairstow.
The 33-year-old has not featured for his country since a failed recreational drugs test in the summer of the 2019 World Cup led to his banishment from the squad. During his subsequent exile, a “breakdown in trust” was often cited by the captain, Eoin Morgan.
But events have now conspired to bring a fresh opening, through Morgan’s retirement in April and the passing the leadership baton to Jos Buttler, Jason Roy’s slump of form and the freak broken leg suffered by Bairstow playing golf last week.
Hales has remained among the premium batters on the global T20 circuit and with Rob Key stressing he had “served his time” upon being appointed director of England cricket in April, and a place at the T20 World Cup in Australia this October is now his.
Though Key put Hales’ initial omission solely down to cricketing reasons – Bairstow was promoted to fill the opening spot left by Roy, with Lancashire’s Phil Salt the spare opener in the squad – it still required discussions with all parties this week. Those talks were positive, resulting in an end to Hales three-year exclusion from the England set-up.
Hales has pipped Surrey’s Will Jacks and has also been added to the T20 squad for the tour of Pakistan later this month.
This comeback would be a break from the Morgan era and a defining one early on in the captaincy of Buttler. The 31-year-old was among the senior players who supported Morgan’s decision to exclude Hales back in 2019, with the likes of Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Ben Stokes also consulted at the time.
In the case of Stokes, the return of Hales would appear to represent an acknowledgement they can work together, the pair having grown apart since the 2017 Bristol street fight that saw Stokes cleared of affray in court the following summer.
The quality of cricketer has scarcely been in doubt during the absence, however, Hales having compiled seven international centuries, powered two world record ODI totals and recently moved past 10,000 career runs in Twenty20 cricket.
An additional draw is his experience on Australian pitches, having been a mainstay in the Big Bash League in recent years, including being top-scorer in the 2020-21 edition.