It’s been a strange few weeks for the men’s England cricket team.
From the dramatic lows of the first Test v South Africa to the ecstatic highs of the second Test, England were gearing up for a series decider and looking ahead to a second T20 World Cup in as many years.
Preparation for both of these were however hindered by the news of a bizarre injury to talisman Jonny Bairstow, a man who has been the personification of England’s new brutal approach to Test cricket.
Bairtow’s slip whilst playing golf has ruled him out for both the final Test match against South Africa and the T20 World Cup in the winter.
The search for his replacement in this squad that will head to the tournament was a swift one, but the man chosen to replace him has taken many by surprise.
Alex Hales, the big hitting batter who has gone around the world to conquer white ball tournaments in multiple continents, has been brought in from the cold following three years away from the England set up.
Hales talent as a run scorer and match winner in the T20 format is not lost on anyone - 1,644 runs in 60 T20 internationals for England is evidence enough for that.
A controversial past
Hales’ expulsion from England was due to testing positive for recreational drugs before the 2019 World Cup.
On top of that, as recently as November 2021, Hales came out and apologised for a photo which had emerged of him appearing to wear black face.
On a video on social media he posted at the time, Hales said: "I guess my 20s were full of mistakes like that, reckless mistakes off the field that cost me, let down family, let down team-mates, let down friends, close relationships I had during my 20s."
Hales will be eager to move on from these dark times for which he has apologised for, and it seems that the England hierarchy believe he has paid his time, so to speak.
In the lead up to the third Test, skipper Ben Stokes said: "Alex is definitely one of the best T20 players in the world. Unfortunately, with what happened with Jonny, we had to call another player up - and Alex is definitely one of the guys that bowlers don’t want to be bowling at in the T20 format."
"I’ve not been in the leadership capacity in the white-ball group for however long.
"But when it comes down to the big moments in games and World Cup games, knockout games, you want your best players there to be taking that pressure on and he certainly is one of those."
Hales is arguably the best opening batter in the English men’s T20 over game, and having him back in the fold can only be a good thing for the English game.
Off the field, the England set up believe he has served his time away from the game for the actions of the past.
On the field, they will have a batter who is more than capabable of leading the side to their second ever T20 World Cup win.