Alex Hales remains sidelined from England’s white-ball plans despite the first-choice ODI team being forced into isolation following seven positive COVID-19 cases, which saw the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) name a fresh 18-man squad to face Pakistan in 48 hours.
On Tuesday (July 6), just two days before the series against Pakistan, the ECB announced that three players and four members of staff had tested positive, meaning they and the entire ODI squad were instructed to self-isolate. This forced a brand-new squad to be named, which is led by Ben Stokes, who was not part of the initial team picked on account of him being in the early stages of his return from a finger injury, and features nine uncapped cricketers.
These include the Somerset allrounder Lewis Gregory, Sussex opener Phil Salt, Durham seamer Brydon Carse, Surrey allrounder Will Jacks, Middlesex wicketkeeper John Simpson and his pace-bowling team-mate Tom Helm, Gloucestershire left-arm quick David Payne and Dan Lawrence and Zak Crawley, both of whom have Test experience but have not played ODIs for England. Dawid Malan, who left the squad for personal reasons, has been named. James Vince, who played the last of his 16 ODIs in 2020, has also found a place and there is a recall for Danny Briggs, who has not featured in an England shirt since 2014.
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However, there is still no place for Hales, who least featured for England in 2019 when he was suspended shortly before the World Cup for failing a second recreational drugs test. Two weeks ago, England’s ODI and T20I captain Eoin Morgan said that the door had not shut on Hales, 32, but stressed that there are plenty of options.
Last month, Hales spoke of his ambitions to return to the England setup and how he hoped to have a dialogue with the men who matter. He then smashed 101* off 66 balls for Nottinghamshire against Lancashire in the ongoing T20 Blast, which featured 12 fours and four sixes. Earlier in the tournament, Hales struck 60* from 24 balls and 96* off 54 balls in two more wins.
Hales currently has scored 382 runs from 11 T20 Blast innings at an average of 47.75 and strike-rate of 172.07. Only three players have scored more in the competition. Prior to the T20 Blast, Hales finished this year’s Big Bash League in Australia as the leading run-getter with 543 for Sydney Thunder. Despite England’s director of cricket Ashley Giles having spoken with Hales’ agent in March, the batsman remains sidelined.
The ODIs (on July 8, 10 and 13) and T20Is (on July 16, 18 and 20) versus Pakistan will still go ahead on scheduled, said the ECB.
England squad: Ben Stokes (captain), Jake Ball, Danny Briggs, Brydon Carse, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Lewis Gregory, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Dan Lawrence, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Matt Parkinson, David Payne, Phil Salt, John Simpson, James Vince