May 21, 2020
George DobellSenior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
England could name up to 45 players in their international training squads next week, with Alex Hales one of those waiting nervously to see if he wins a recall.
While England’s white-ball players will not be required back in training until mid-June, the ECB are likely to name both the Test and limited-overs squads at the same time. Although the exact numbers have yet to be decided, the England management are mindful of the need to include reserves and net bowlers in the training squads in the knowledge that calling players up later in the summer could prove problematic.
Most of those involved will need to be called out of furlough – only centrally-contracted players and those on the staffs of Lancashire and Surrey are currently not on furlough – and build up their fitness and skill levels to those required in international cricket. To avoid a situation whereby it takes weeks to ensure replacements for anyone taken sick or struck down by injury, the ECB are likely to mobilise far larger squads than normal. It is also likely they will require two entirely separate red- and white-ball squads with the schedule – and the need for infection controls – limiting the opportunity of players appearing in both.
One of those awaiting the announcement of the white-ball squad will be Hales. He was deselected from the World Cup squad a year ago after it emerged he had twice tested positive for recreational drugs. With the likelihood that the limited-overs squad will be without Joe Root, Ben Stokes and, perhaps, Jos Buttler – all of whom are set to be named in the Test squad – there is an increased opportunity for Hales, an experienced top-order international batsman, to win an early recall.
While the final decision on whether to pick him will be made by England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, ESPNcricinfo understands there have been conversations between Hales and the England management in recent weeks. It is believed the management have been impressed by Hales’ commitment to change, while those close to the player are adamant he is a more mature man.
Under normal circumstances, it might still be considered a little early for a Hales recall. His most recent international was in March 2019 and there had been an assumption that he would not be considered until the T20 World Cup in October. It’s barely three weeks since Morgan described Hales’ behaviour as “considerably harmful” and suggested his deselection was “not that long ago”. As Morgan told the BBC in February, “to regain that trust there needs to be a considerable amount of time”.
But these are not normal circumstances and, with the likelihood that England will require two entirely separate squads, there is a chance Hales will win a reprieve. And while some will feel the time served away from the team is not sufficient, it must be remembered it includes a World Cup campaign.
Few dispute Hales’ ability as a player. He was the second highest run-scorer in the most recent Big Bash – he averaged 38.40 at a strike-rate of 146.93 – and had the highest batting average (59.75 at a strike-rate of 156.20) of anyone to have batted more than once in the PSL. He has three of the five highest scores in England’s T20I history – including the highest – with only Morgan having scored more runs among England players in the international format.
He has also the second highest score by an England player in ODI cricket – 171 – among his six ODI centuries. Aged 31, he might be at his peak. As Morgan also said in that BBC interview: “When he was deselected, it was never down to performance. He is one of the best players in the world”.
Others likely to face a nervous wait to see if they are recalled over the coming days include Liam Plunkett, Ben Duckett, David Willey, Sam Billings, James Vince and Ben Foakes; all of whom played for England in 2019. The likes of Dawid Malan, Pat Brown, Chris Jordan and Tom Banton can look forward to the announcement with more confidence.
The first England players returned to individual bowling on Thursday. Stuart Broad provided a glimpse of their new reality by uploading a series of short videos on his Instagram feed.
These showed him taking his temperature before leaving for training and uploading the results onto an app. He then drove into the ground at Trent Bridge where he had a designated parking spot and even toilet – a women’s one as it happens – before signs directed him via a designated route to the playing area. There he bowled to a set of stumps on the edge of the square ensuring he used the balls designated for his purpose only.
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