Hales delivers barnstorming comeback after unexpected chance

Alex Hales may not have expected his England return – but we should not be surprised at just how well it has gone.

“I never thought I’d play in a World Cup again,” said Hales after his pulsating 86 not out from 47 balls in the 10-wicket demolition of India in Thursday’s T20 semi-final, as he briefly thought about his three-year exile from international cricket due to off-field issues.

Jason Roy losing his form, Jonny Bairstow injuring himself on a golf course, time perhaps easing old wounds and Hales’ enduring white-ball prowess all contributed to the hard-hitting 33-year-old getting another go in England colours, first in Pakistan and now at the T20 World Cup in Australia.

He’s delivered in spades. He’s immensely tough to bowl at and it was fantastic to be at the other end and watch him go about his business with such a wide range of shots. The dimensions of the ground, he played them fantastically well. A huge
strength of his is square of the wicket which obviously on this kind of ground is really great.

Jos Buttler on Alex Hales

Thanks in large part to his awesome innings in Adelaide, Hales will now get at least one more go for England in Sunday’s final against Pakistan – or possibly the final on Monday if the wet weather that is forecast turns up in droves in Melbourne.

Hales will turn up fresh from “one of the best nights of my career” but delivering dominant performances on Australian pitches has been his thing for a while. It was one of the key reasons England turned to him when Bairstow busted his leg and ankle.

His record batting in the Big Bash League across stints at Adelaide Strikers, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Renegades and Sydney Thunder is 1,857 runs in 60 innings – the most by a non-Australian player – at an average of 33.16 and a strike-rate 151.34.

And his record in this ongoing World Cup is now 211 runs in five innings at an average of 52.75 and a strike-rate of 148.59 after a second fifty in three innings. Real Down Under plunder.

Alex Hales (Associated Press)
Image: Alex Hales smashed seven sixes and four fours in his unbeaten 86 from 47 balls against India

“This is a country I love and have spent a lot of time in,” added Hales after sharing a T20 World Cup record stand of 170 with captain Jos Buttler as England coasted to victory over India with 24 balls to spare.

The true Australian pitches are so much to his liking and he showed that in spades as he belted India for seven sixes and four fours.

Four of his maximums sailed over the shorter square boundaries, three more over the longer, straighter ones. Hales used his long levers to sweep and loft seamers and spinners into the stands.

“This is one of the best grounds to bat at in the world, especially in the powerplay,” said Hales. “You get great value for your shots with the shorter, square boundaries. It’s a ground I have good memories at and a ground I enjoy batting at.”

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Michael Atherton, Eoin Morgan and Ian Ward reflect on England’s T20 World Cup semi-final win over India and ahead to the final against Pakistan

Hales, having been the second-highest run-scorer in the Big Bash League in 2019/20 and then the highest the following season, was always the obvious choice to replace Bairstow cricketing-wise.

The question was whether the team had forgiven his past off-field indiscretions, which former captain Eoin Morgan said three years ago had led to a “breakdown of trust.”

We may never know whether Hales would have returned had Morgan still been captain, although Morgan did appear more open to that possibility in the latter stages of his tenure.

But the new decision-makers – captain Buttler, head coach Matthew Mott and director of cricket Rob Key – saw fit to recall him with Key saying at the time Hales deserved a shot at “redemption.”

India may now be wishing Hales hadn’t been given that chance after he played a pivotal role in their T20 World Cup downfall. He’ll try to do the same to Pakistan at the MCG on Sunday in a repeat of the 1992 50-over World Cup final – but after that, who knows?

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Captain Jos Buttler says England are ‘ready’ for Sunday’s match against Pakistan in Melbourne

Hales is not part of the ODI squad that will face Australia in a three-match series starting in Adelaide next Thursday. Not yet, at least. With Dawid Malan nursing a groin injury, that call may yet come.

If not, we could be looking at March’s white-ball games in Bangladesh and then another long gap before the T20 team link up again in late August after The Ashes and The Hundred.

We will find out in due course whether Hales’ England return was a one-off for Australian conditions or something more long-term and whether a man who turns 34 in January is in contention for a place at next year’s one-day international World Cup in India and then the T20 version in the United States and West Indies in 2024.

He could not have done much more to push his case after making the most of an unexpected opportunity in Australia – and delivering results we really should have expected.

Watch England vs Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final live on Sky Sports Cricket on Sunday. Build-up starts at 7am ahead of an 8am start at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.


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