England opener Alex Hales celebrates his comeback. After spending three years in the wild – following a positive drug test in 2019 that resulted in Eoin Morgan banning him from England’s white-ball setup – he was selected for the seven-match series against Pakistan and hammered in Perth a 51-ball 84 against Australia.
It was his stellar record in the BBL – where he hit 1,857 runs in 60 games over six seasons at a batting average of 151.34 – that prompted selection to consider him after regular opener Jonny Bairstow last month was injured. And he confirmed their confidence by beating Australia in Perth with 51-ball 84.
He said he was extremely nervous before the game as he never thought he would be at another World Cup. “It’s an opportunity I thought would never come again. I want to play with a smile, hopefully get some good results and push as hard as possible to win a world championship. It’s something I didn’t see a few months ago, especially with the firepower at the top of the leaderboard, and to get this chance I just want to make the most of it,” he said after the game.
He admitted he was nervous ahead of the game. “It was strange,” said Hales, who has an outstanding record of 1,858 runs from 67 T20 caps with an average of 30 and a batting average of 139. “I haven’t been nervous in a long time. I don’t know what it was. I put it down to jet lag or maybe the fact that I’m heading into a whopping six weeks and a chance I probably didn’t think I was going to get a few months ago, so there was definitely nervousness before that Game.”
But a chat with the captain calmed his nerves. “Jos told me on Saturday that it’s a place where I have a lot of experience and that counts a lot in T20s,” he said.
Hale wasn’t part of the first squad, but he called Rob Key, the managing director of men’s cricket, and demanded an explanation. Then the Bairstow injury happened. “I think they announced the squad in the evening. I knew in the morning I wasn’t there, so I texted him that said, “Would you like to chat?” Hales said.
“I went pretty hard. I was blunt about my point because I had nothing to lose. I felt like I had a really strong point with my record in Australia, so I thought ‘why not?’. You’ll have to ask Rob or Jos if it was a big part of me getting the call-up, but I’m certainly glad I did,” he added.
But Key has consulted with each roster member of the 2019 world-champion squad to see if they have any objections. Nobody had, although Ben Stokes wasn’t too keen. But the hatchet was soon buried. “There was no air purification at all. We just sat down and chatted with Jos and it was as good as gold. We’re here to win a World Cup, that’s the most important thing. We had a really good talk and everything was fine,” Hales said.
Now he dreams of an ODI comeback. “I don’t think the bug ever left me. Right now I’m just concentrating on those five or six weeks and hopefully helping us go far in the tournament. And whatever happens after that, we will cross that bridge when we reach it,” he explained.
“It’s just a shame I haven’t been there for the last three years because I feel like I’ve played the best cricket of my life. I have to make up some lost time,” he added.