Hales announces international retirement; to focus on franchise leagues
Alex Hales has announced his retirement from international cricket with immediate effect, at the age of 34. He signs off from his England career as a T20 World Cup winner, having played his last game in their five-wicket win over Pakistan at the MCG in November last year.
Hales has been in semi-regular discussion with England’s management over the last nine months, weighing up the balance between bilateral commitments and his franchise contracts.
He has opted to bow out of the international game, confirming his continued availability for short-form leagues around the world.
“It has been an absolute privilege to have represented my country on 156 occasions across all three formats,” Hales said in a statement seen by ESPNcricinfo before publication. “l’ve made some memories and some friendships to last a lifetime and I feel that now is the right time to move on.
“Throughout my time in an England shirt I’ve experienced some of the highest highs as well as some of the lowest lows. It’s been an incredible journey and I feel very content that my last game for England was winning a World Cup final.”
Hales opted out of England’s T20I series in Bangladesh earlier this year in order to fulfil a contract in the PSL, and faced another clash of commitments later this month. He is in talks with a CPL franchise about a replacement deal, which would have ruled him out of England’s home T20I series against New Zealand.
England are increasingly comfortable with white-ball players opting out of bilateral series but regular clashes played a part in Hales considering his future. He recently told Rob Key, England’s managing director of men’s cricket, that he was contemplating international retirement, and confirmed that decision on Thursday evening.
Having last played 50-over cricket four years ago, Hales was never in serious contention for this year’s World Cup, but would have been a contender for England’s T20 title defence in the Caribbean and the United States next year. Instead, his retirement will open up opportunities for players like Will Jacks and Phil Salt.
Hales made a surprise return from his three-year England exile last September after Jonny Bairstow’s leg-break ruled him out of the World Cup. He played 15 T20Is across their tours to Pakistan, Australia and the T20 World Cup, averaging 30.71 with a strike rate of 145.27.
Hales played vital innings in England’s final two group games, making 52 and 47 against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and then marmalised India with 86 not out in a 10-wicket semi-final thrashing in Adelaide – which he immediately described as “one of the best days of my career”.
He fell second-ball in the final, bowled by a Shaheen Shah Afridi inswinger for 1, but England scrapped to a five-wicket win with an over to spare. Hales celebrated with team-mates in front of their travelling supporters – including family members who had travelled to Melbourne.
He feared that moment – lifting a global trophy with England – would never arrive after he was axed from their squad for the 50-over World Cup in 2019. News of a failed recreational drugs test broke a month before the tournament started, and Hales was withdrawn.
Eoin Morgan, England’s captain at the time, said that learning of the news via the media represented “a complete breakdown in trust” between Hales and his team-mates; Hales watched England lift the trophy from his sofa, and never played for England again under Morgan’s captaincy.
Hales had been a significant part of England’s progress from short-form laggards to the game’s cutting edge, forming half of a destructive opening partnership with Jason Roy as Morgan and Trevor Bayliss launched their white-ball revolution in 2015.
In 2016, he made 171 against Pakistan on his home ground Trent Bridge, breaking Robin Smith’s long-standing record for England’s highest ODI innings. His innings set up a world-record total of 444 for 3 – a record England broke at the same venue two years later, when Hales made 147 out of their 481 for 6 against Australia.
By that stage, Hales was England’s spare batter, having lost his first-choice berth in the aftermath of the street-fight outside a Bristol nightclub also involving Ben Stokes. He was not charged with any criminal offence, but an ECB-imposed suspension opened up a vacancy for the recalled Roy, who then formed a brilliant opening partnership with Bairstow.
Hales also played 11 Tests between 2015 and 2016 as one of England’s many attempts to find a regular opening partner for Alastair Cook. He made five half-centuries and averaged 27.28, but was dropped ahead of the 2016-17 winter tours and quit red-ball cricket ahead of the 2018 county season.
“Throughout the ups and downs I’ve always felt a huge amount of support from my friends, family and undoubtedly the best fans in world cricket,” Hales added in his statement. “I look forward to continuing to play for Notts and experiencing more franchise cricket around the world.”
Hales finishes his England career with 2419 ODI runs at 37.79, including six hundreds, and is one of three men to score more than 2000 T20I runs for England, with his single hundred coming against a Sri Lanka side featuring Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga at the 2014 World T20. (ESPNcricinfo)