A disastrous winter has left Alex Hales’ international career in danger of terminal decline just six months after he scored England’s highest ever individual score in ODIs. The opening batsman opted out of touring Bangladesh, and in doing so, has allowed others to potentially overtake him in the pecking order. However, England would be right to continue with their continuity policy by retaining Hales for the upcoming Champions Trophy.
30th August 2016 – Alex Hales breaks Robin Smith’s 23-year-old record and reaches a career high by smashing 171 off 122 balls against Pakistan.
The record came as no surprise as England’s rejuvenated style in white ball cricket has led to many records being broken. More so, it came as no surprise that Hales was the one to become the new record holder. He ended 2016 with 743 runs at an average of 61.91 (only five batsmen scored more).
A different format brought different results for the Nottinghamshire man, though. Like seven others before him, the 28-year-old was unsuccessful in cementing his place at the top of the order alongside Alistair Cook since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012. His time opening the batting was not without moments of optimism, however. Scores of 86, 83, and 94 against Sri Lanka could have secured his place if converted into centuries. It was not to be for Hales as he could not achieve that elusive maiden century against sterner opponents, Pakistan. A series average of just 18.13 left his place in serious doubt ahead of winter tours to Bangladesh and India.
The only repercussion of not touring Bangladesh for Hales was allowing others to showcase their talent to the selectors. As there is so much talent around the England squad currently, any opportunity is precious. With Sam Billings and Ben Duckett impressing everyone during the ODI’s against Bangladesh, those with short memories started to debate whether Hales could was worth his place anymore moving forward.
Test cricket will prove to be a sour memory for the 28-year-old. During the last Test of the summer, Hales was involved in several eventful moments. After being controversially caught at mid-wicket by Yasir Shah on the first morning, frustration boiled over as the opener marched straight into the third-umpire’s office to protest – it cost him 15% of his match fee. Later in the match, Hales was quick to get stuck into Shah whilst fielding. After ironically making a ‘cry baby’ gesture, the Nottinghamshire man dropped a sitter in the gully. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVRRpDJfiNY)
When Hales finally came back into the team at the back end of the winter against India for the white ball matches, he only managed two out of six appearances, making just 23 runs in total before a broken finger sealed a disastrous six months for the 28-year-old.
Despite possessing a somewhat ‘feast or famine’ nature, his ODI form has certainly been feast. Therefore, Hales deserves a place in England’s Champions Trophy side come 1st June. Sam Billings is an exceptional talent but given his ability against spin bowling, he is better suited in the middle order. Furthermore, opening partner Jason Roy speaks extremely highly of their partnership as the pair have consistently found a way to complement each other – sharing three century stands, including an England record of 256 vs Sri Lanka.
The England management have already shown their faith in Hales by selecting him for the India series. More so, he will join up with the squad for the three-match series against the West Indies to continue his rehabilitation. Eoin Morgan’s return to form has proved why it is important to back a player who has already proven himself at the highest level, and Alex Hales has certainly earnt the right to do so, too.