A couple of months ago, Alex Hales was not even in the scheme of things for England’s T20 World Cup campaign. Dumped out of the 2019 World Cup squad after failing a recreational drugs test, Hales spent three years in the wilderness.
He had slowly made peace with it and was on a four-week holiday in Cape Town with his girlfriend but fate had something else in store.
Jonny Bairstow suffered a freak ankle injury while playing golf in September and was eventually ruled out of the T20 World Cup, leaving the door ajar for the opening slot.
Hales banged that door down with a series of scintillating performances including an unbeaten 47-ball 86 against India in a World Cup semifinal.
“I never thought I’d play in a World Cup again, and to get a chance is a special feeling,” the 33-year-old, who had made his England debut way back in 2011, said after setting up England’s final date with Pakistan.
Hales was one of the figures who played a huge role in England’s journey from the ignominy of the 2015 World Cup exit to becoming the force that it became in white-ball cricket in the next four years.
However, the failed drug test completely broke down his relationship with England management and the team’s senior players with then-skipper Eoin Morgan giving a scathing review of the opener.
The three-week suspension ahead of the 2019 World Cup turned into months and then years as he was ignored for the 2021 T20 World Cup.
As someone who played 11 Tests and 70 ODIs for England, Hales turned his focus on the shortest format in 2019, eventually becoming a franchise globetrotter as he played in IPL (six games in 2018), PSL, CPL, BBL and The Hundred.
Despite being away from the national team for three years, Hales is the third-highest run-scorer for England in T20 Internationals between 2011 to 2022.
Following Bairstow’s injury, Hales was recalled for the team for the seven-T20I series in Pakistan and two T20Is in Australia ahead of the T20 World Cup.
His wealth of experience on Australian soil stood him in good stead as he emerged as the team’s leading run-scorer at this World Cup — 211 runs at 52.76 average and strike rate of 148.59.
His innings of 52 and 47 were crucial for England’s win over New Zealand and Sri Lanka but the icing on the cake was breathtaking 86 not out against India
“A huge occasion, really happy with the way I played. I think this is one of the best grounds to bat in in the world. Great value to hit your shots with the short square boundaries, and a ground I have good memories at,” said Hales during the presentation.
Hales has been sensational thus far but will be hoping he has saved his best for the last when England take on Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final on Sunday.