Alex Hales admitted his return to the English colors felt more like a debut than a comeback as his half-century helped secure victory at a historic event in Karachi.
Hales may have been long-awaited to wear the Three Lions again, but his three-and-a-half-year absence only scratches the surface of the 17 years since England last stepped onto the field on Pakistani soil.
But the 33-year-old’s removal could well have been permanent were it not for a series of unrelated events. The first, and crucial, was the resignation of former captain Eoin Morgan, who effectively eclipsed the Hales name, citing a loss of confidence following a failed recreational drug test.
With the barrier removed, he needed a place to open up, which accommodated Jason Roy’s dramatic loss of form and Jonny Bairstow’s unusual golf course injury.
Giving his unexpected chance of redemption in this seven-game T20 series and the World Cup that follows in Australia next month, he helped his way to 53 in 40 balls to lead his team to a six-wicket win.
“It was a very special feeling to be back in the park for England,” he said. “Three years felt like an eternity. Going out and coming back with 50 points on a winning team is the stuff dreams are made of.
“It is a great feeling. The lads said it had never mattered to cricket in the past, missing the three years never doubted it. But after a three-year break, nervousness and pressure kept coming back. It felt like a debut again, so it was a very special night.
“It just feels like a dream come true, contributing half a century to a successful team in a country where I have a lot of good, special memories feels fantastic.”
Hales denied that the raw emotion of donning the England shirt had inspired his performance at centre, insisting the home attacking ability coached him for the task at hand.
However, given his previous experience playing in the Pakistan Super League – one of the franchise competitions that has helped him make the case for his recall in recent years – he conceded an extra layer of meaning.
“You can’t allow emotions, you have to focus on winning a cricket match against a very skillful bowling attack. There are guys who bowl at 90 mph so it was just about getting over the line for me,” he said.
“But to score 50 points and steer us in the right direction meant a lot. This is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years, it’s a place that means a lot to me.
“I’ve played to full houses here in Karachi and it’s different. It’s one of the best atmospheres in world cricket.
“Luke Wood stood in the middle of the wicket early in the game and said he couldn’t believe the noise and the atmosphere. Karachi put on a show tonight.”
Wood may have been stunned by the occasion on his international debut, but his performance showed no nerves.
He took three for 24, exploded Mohammad Nawaz’s stump to open his account in style, then added two more in a controlled post-death spell.
“Luke Wood was outstanding,” said Moeen Ali, who filled in as captain for the injured Jos Buttler.
“On his debut when he ran in and bowled like that… he stuck his chest out and was amazing.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/alex-hales-eoin-morgan-england-pakistan-karachi-b2171547.html Alex Hales triumphantly returns from English exile that ‘felt like forever’