‘A chance I thought would never come again’: Hales sets sights on World Cup | England cricket team

Alex Hales may have shut down the debate over the identity of Jos Buttler’s opening partner at the forthcoming T20 World Cup with his 51-ball 84 against Australia on Sunday – but among England’s players the uncertainty had ended 24 hours earlier, when Hales was informed that the position was his to lose.

Freed of uncertainty, he proceeded to compile his highest T20 international score for 38 innings and eight and a half years as England won the first of three Twenty20s at Perth Stadium. But the 33-year-old said afterwards that whatever had powered his innings it was not nervelessness. “It was a weird one,” he said. “I hadn’t got nervous for a long time. I don’t know what it was. I put it down to jet lag or maybe the fact that it’s heading into a huge six weeks for me, and a chance I probably thought I wouldn’t get again a few months ago, so there were definitely pre-game nerves.”

A positive drug test in 2019 led to Eoin Morgan criticising Hales for showing “complete disregard for our values” and jettisoning him from England’s white-ball set-up. He was not selected again until a combination of Morgan’s retirement and Jonny Bairstow’s injury kick-started a battle with Phil Salt for a single spot at the top of the order. In the end it was Hales’s record in Australia’s domestic T20 competition, the Big Bash League – where he has scored 1,857 runs in 60 matches across six seasons at a strike rate of 151.34 – that decided the contest in his favour.

“Jos told me on Saturday,” Hales said. “It’s a place I’ve got a lot of experience, and that counts for a lot in T20s. It’s something I didn’t see happening a few months ago, especially with the firepower at the top of the order, and to get this chance, I’m just really keen to make the most of it and enjoy myself. That’s the biggest thing for me – I just want to enjoy it. It’s a chance I thought would never come round again and I want to play with a smile, hopefully get some good scores, and push as hard as I can to hopefully win a World Cup.”

Having initially been left out of England’s squad, Hales decided to phone Rob Key, the managing director of men’s cricket, and demand an explanation. Bairstow’s injury, and his belated call-up, happened within hours of that conversation. “I think they announced the squad in the evening. I knew in the morning that I wasn’t in it so I sent him a message saying, ‘Do you fancy a chat?’” Hales said. “I went quite hard. I put my point across quite bluntly because obviously I had nothing to lose. I felt I had a really strong case with my record in Australia so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I think you’ll have to ask Rob or Jos if it was a big part of me getting the call-up, but I’m glad I did it for sure.”

Before his selection was confirmed members of the 2019 squad were asked if they had any objection, and none protested – even if, when asked about the subject last month, Ben Stokes seemed less than enthusiastic despite describing him as “one of the best T20 players in the world”. The pair have now spent some time together, and Hales has no concerns over their relationship. “There’s been no air-clearing at all. We just sat down with Jos and had a chat, and it’s been as good as gold,” he said. “At the end of the day we’re here to win a World Cup, I think that’s the most important thing. We’ve had a really good chat and things have been fine.”

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Rafiq and Gale reprimanded for historical social media posts


Azeem Rafiq and Andrew Gale are among five individuals who have accepted breaching rules with historic social media posts found to constitute “racist and discriminatory conduct” by the Cricket Discipline Commission.

The CDC has published adjudicator Chris Tickle’s rulings on charges laid by the England and Wales Cricket Board, judging Rafiq, Gale, Danni Wyatt, Evelyn Jones and Jack Brooks to have acted in a way that was “prejudicial to the interests of cricket”. All of the individuals admitted culpability, with the CDC adjudicator issuing a formal reprimand in each case.

Rafiq and Gale both used antisemitic terms in unrelated posts that came to light in the aftermath of the former’s accusations of institutional racism at Yorkshire, which sent a shockwave through the game last year. Yorkshire have previously paid six-figure settlements to the duo, settling Rafiq’s employment tribunal and Gale’s unfair dismissal claim.

Rafiq, who has publicly expressed contrition for the Facebook messages in question, issued an unreserved apology following the announcement of the disciplinary action. He tweeted: “This summer, I unequivocally accepted a charge from the ECB regarding my antisemitic social media post from 2011. You will hear no complaint from me about the CDC’s decision today.

“It is deserved and I fully accept this reprimand. I want to repeat my apology to the Jewish community. I remain ashamed and embarrassed. I hope I have demonstrated in the past 10-11 months that I am trying to educate myself about the horrors and prejudice the Jewish community has historically – and continues – to face. I will keep trying and I thank the Jewish community for the forgiveness and kindness that has been shown to me so far.”

The written reasons into Gale’s censure acknowledge that his exchange with Leeds United’s then head of media, Paul Dews, was intended to be “humorous rather than offensive” and that he was “unaware” of the offensive meaning of the term ‘y**’.

Wyatt and Jones, meanwhile, both appeared in a 2013 Instagram post alongside former West Indian player Shanel Daley that featured “fancy dress and blackface” as well as inappropriate captions. Tickle concluded that there had been “no racist or discriminatory intent” and took evidence from Daly that she had taken no offence. England Women’s captain Heather Knight submitted a reference on Wyatt’s behalf.

Veteran Somerset seamer Brooks used the term ‘Negro’ in a pair of tweets involving his friend and England international Tymal Mills. He also apologised and admitted such language was racist, having previously been investigated by his county. Brooks submitted that previous scrutiny over the matter had affected his mental health and caused financial losses.

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Now Hales is dreaming of a return to the ODI side, with a World Cup in the 50-over format scheduled next year. “I don’t think the bug ever left me,” he said. “At the moment I’m just concentrating on these five or six weeks, hopefully contributing to us going far in the tournament. And then whatever happens after that, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

The 132 that Hales and Buttler scored together in Perth ranks as England’s second-biggest opening partnership in T20 cricket, and with various partners Hales has been involved in all of the top four (Sunday’s is Buttler’s only entry in the top six). “It’s a very special feeling,” Hales said of that achievement. “It’s just a shame I haven’t been around the last three years because I feel I’ve been playing the best cricket of my life. I’ve got some lost time to make up for.”

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