PAUL NEWMAN: Alex Hales is still not trusted by England

PAUL NEWMAN: Alex Hales continues to shine in franchise T20 cricket and the Hundred, but he is still not trusted by England… so don’t expect a World Cup recall

  • England name squad on Friday for seven-match Twenty20 series in Pakistan
  • Surprise if Alex Hales is selected despite concerns over the form of Jason Roy
  • Championship needs to be played in peak summer even without star players 

It has to be now or never for Alex Hales. If he is missing when England name their squad on Friday for their seven-match Twenty20 series against Pakistan next month then surely that is the end for a highly talented yet ostracised figure.

Hales, at 33, is still good enough, as he continues to prove in franchise T20 cricket and in the Hundred for Trent Rockets, and the sudden retirement of captain Eoin Morgan appeared to have given Hales a glimmer of hope of a recall for October’s World Cup.

But the indications are there is still no appetite for turning within the camp, even though managing director Rob Key said when he took over the slate is now clean for Hales after his much-publicised falling out with England.

Alex Hales has not played for England since he failed a test for recreational drugs in 2019

It is perhaps significant that Ben Stokes calls Hales ‘my friend at the time’ when discussing in his new documentary the brawl in Bristol that enveloped them both. While the trust Morgan said was lost after Hales failed a test for recreational drugs ahead of the 2019 World Cup does not appear to have been regained under Jos Buttler.

There is a probably a vacancy at the top of the England order because of the continuing lack of form of Jason Roy, who has also had back trouble during the Hundred.

But it would be a huge surprise if Hales filled it when England name their squad for a series that will definitely go ahead despite the terrible flooding in large parts of Pakistan.

The 33-year-old has shown he is good enough in franchise T20 cricket and in the Hundred

Phil Salt is surely deserving of a regular chance while Surrey’s Will Jacks is a late bolter for a World Cup squad that England do not have to name until September 16.

And if Hales is left out yet again he will just have to content himself with still being a shining light in the lucrative but far less satisfying world of franchise cricket.

Championship deserves August slot

Sir Andrew Strauss told us to be prepared for radical change when he set out on his High Performance Review of English cricket but there was more than a hint of compromise when his initial recommendations were released last week. Most specifically, the thorny question of the probable reduction in the amount of Championship cricket, with any changes delayed until 2024.

Key spoke for most when he said on Sky during the second Test that we need to see some red-ball matches – however many there are in total – during August. But question is, what sort of red-ball matches?

For, as Sportsmail revealed, red-ball cricket could be back in peak summer but not the Championship as some counties are reluctant to stage them without players taking part in the Hundred. A red-ball cup has been mooted or the possibility of stand-alone matches between local rivals but this is surely a compromise too far.

The Championship needs to be played in peak summer and if counties are without the predicted 35 per cent of their best red-ball players picked up by the Hundred so be it.

Hundred needs more thrills

And they will have to do that because the Hundred is not going away after being set in stone for the next five Augusts in the new Sky broadcasting deal. 

So even those of us who still feel it to have been an unnecessary innovation and the elephant in the scheduling room have to accept that and pray those in charge of our game know what they are doing.

So, what has it been like this year? My colleague Lawrence Booth asked for observations on Twitter and, for such a black and white platform, received many measured, balanced replies.

There has been good inter-action but the jury is out on the overall quality of the Hundred

It is fair to say crowds, apart from in Cardiff, have been largely good with a family atmosphere. And the women’s game, as we predicted at the very start of it all, continues to be the big winner. There has also been good inter-action between players and fans but the jury is out on the overall quality.

One big issue has been the lack of close finishes in men’s games which has led to an absence of drama and jeopardy. So I’m sure we can all agree on one thing – the Hundred really needs a close, thrilling and high quality final at Lord’s on Saturday.

Life left in 50-over game

While the Hundred hogs the limelight the much-derided 50-over game has been carrying on merrily with good crowds and close finishes with weakened county sides in the Royal London Cup. Let us hope reports of the death of the form of the game that, lest we forget, England remain world champions of, are greatly exaggerated.

Warning signs for series

There is no better-informed observer on South African cricket than Neil Manthorp so when he says their re-arranged one-day series against England in January is ‘hanging by a thread’ it is wise to take note.

The problem is it clashes with the latter stages of South Africa’s new Twenty20 franchise league that has already seen them forfeit their scheduled one-day series against Australia.

Sadly, we all know which way the tide is turning. Do not be surprised if South Africa give up on another 50-over series – this time against England.

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