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Cricket news - In search of England recall, Hales proves T20 pedigree

Alex Hales hammered a 47-ball 83* in the quarterfinals

At various points during the last two years, Alex Hales' judgement and temperament have been understandably criticised. He has made poor decisions with harsh consequences, seemingly failing to heed the lessons he should have heeded. But one thing that has never been in doubt is his talent, talent that was on full show as Nottinghamshire decimated Middlesex in the second T20 Blast quarter-final on Thursday evening. Hales remains a world-class limited overs cricketer.

In the opposition was Eoin Morgan, the man who was part of the decision to drop Hales from England's World Cup squad after the Nottinghamshire opener had tested positive for recreational drugs for the second time. When the story came to light in May, Morgan did not mince his words. He said there had been a "complete breakdown of trust" between Hales and his England teammates. Hales' actions had "shown complete disregard" for the team's values. It was not hard to tell how angry England's captain was.

The timing was horrible, just days before the World Cup squad was announced. Hales would have been included although would not have been part of England's first choice team. His spot at the top of the order had already been given up after another poor off-field decision. The well publicised late-night fracas outside a Bristol nightclub, also involving Ben Stokes, during the ODI series against West Indies in September 2017 allowed Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy a run of games. They have never looked back and Hales never regularly got back in.

Had things been different, had Hales made better decisions, he would have been part of England's World Cup winning squad and perhaps leading the charge at the top of the order. Missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity has hit the 30 year-old hard. He has spoken of his shame at letting himself and his family down. Although he understandably wants to move on, the pain of forfeiting the chance to win a home World Cup will live with him for the rest of his days.

After he was dropped, Hales returned to the relative obscurity of Nottinghamshire, playing a few games in the 50-over competition. Then he had a two month period without any first team cricket - he has a white-ball only contract - before this T20 Blast campaign began. Until tonight's quarter-final, he had done fine without setting the world alight. Three half-centuries in ten matches, averaging less than 30 but with a good strike rate of 140 plus.

It had all been rather low-key and things move on fast in professional sport. Today flavour of the month, tomorrow all but forgotten. And so tonight was the night for a statement. In front of Morgan and in a high-stakes game, it was the night for Hales to remind everyone of what he can do. There's a T20 WC coming up next year after all. Although not confirmed yet, Morgan looks likely to be there as England's captain. Hales has said he wants to be there too.

He certainly made a statement in this game, finishing up unbeaten on 83 from 47 balls with seven sixes and six fours in all. It's true that Hales does not always look the most stylish. He stands at the crease, open stanced and bat raised, like a baseball slugger but tonight, his innings was littered with shots of the very highest class.

A cover drive of exquisite timing and placement off Afghan T20 superstar Mujeeb Ur Rahman. A hold-the-pose straight drive, on the up, for six straight over the head of Toby Roland-Jones. A fierce pull for six in Steven Finn's first over and then a flash over cover for another in his second. International bowlers dismissed with indifference. On commentary, Mark Butcher said Hales was impossible to bowl at.

He found great support in Chris Nash who scored 74 not out in his first Blast match of the season. Together they decimated Middlesex who bowled and fielded horribly. Victory was sewn up with 3.4 overs to spare and takes Notts to their fifth Finals Day in eleven years. After a tough season up until now, particularly in the Championship, this was finally some reward for their players and staff. With Hales in this sort of form, few would bet against Notts winning the whole thing.

On pure cricketing ability, there is no doubt that Hales should return to England's white-ball squads. A top three of Roy, Bairstow and Hales would be irresistible in next year's T20 WC Australia and after Finals Day, Hales will use the Caribbean Premier League and South Africa's Mzansi Super League to keep pressing his case. Whether the breakdown of trust that Morgan spoke of in May can be mended in time however remains to be seen.

Many will feel little sympathy for what Hales has gone through in the last two years. He has suffered consequences of his own making and some will say good riddance. But conversely, there will be others who believe in second - or third - chances and who see a way back. England say they have not discounted Hales from future selection. And as tonight proved, his talent is simply too rich to discard too soon.

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