Cricket

England’s semi-final hero Alex Hales looks to complete his comeback by beating Pakistan

So, it’s the Cornered Tigers against the Three Lions who have rediscovered their roar just in time for Sunday’s final of this Twenty20 World Cup.

And what a roar it was from England in Adelaide against India, one that reverberated around the cricketing world and which definitely would have been heard loud and clear by Pakistan.

England had barely caught their breath on Friday after that seismic semi-final before they were off to Melbourne for a rematch, 30 years on, from Imran Khan’s greatest hour in lifting the 50-over World Cup for Pakistan at the MCG.

Alex Hales will hope to complete his England redemption with a World Cup win on Sunday

Alex Hales will hope to complete his England redemption with a World Cup win on Sunday

England play in a final thirty years after losing the 50-over World Cup to an Imran Khan inspired Pakistan victory

England play in a final thirty years after losing the 50-over World Cup to an Imran Khan inspired Pakistan victory 

A smiling Alex Hales was asked in the aftermath of his extraordinary match-winning innings against a stunned India how much he knew about that first World Cup tournament played in coloured clothes in 1992.

‘I was three years old, so not much,’ said Hales, who has thoroughly justified his recall here after more than three years in the international wilderness. ‘Pakistan won,’ he was told. ‘Well hopefully we can reverse that then,’ he replied.

England surely will win, weather permitting, if Hales and Jos Buttler bat anywhere near as well as in that performance for the ages at the Adelaide Oval. A display of mind-boggling hitting that was special even by England’s modern standards.

For Hales in particular his 86 off 47 balls with seven sixes was surely his redemption song, the moment when three and a half years of frustration in exile, admittedly mostly of his own making, was taken out on a shell-shocked India.

Alex Hales hit 86 off his 47 balls in the semi-final win over India which included seven sixes

Alex Hales hit 86 off his 47 balls in the semi-final win over India which included seven sixes 

Not that he was in any mood on Friday to re-visit his feelings over that dumping by Eoin Morgan and England’s senior players when details emerged of a second failed drugs test, one misdemeanour too many for a player who seems to have been followed around by trouble.

‘I don’t think so,’ insisted Hales when asked if he was thinking about missing England’s fabled World Cup triumph of 2019 when he was smashing India to all parts of Adelaide.

‘That’s not what’s on my mind when I’m out in the middle. I’m just playing with a smile on my face in an England shirt again and if I can leave with a World Cup winners medal it would be very special. I don’t play the game to think of redemption or stuff like that.’

Maybe so but all involved in Hales recall, one that looked as if it would never happen when he was initially left out of England’s squad, deserve credit for drawing a line under his absence once Jonny Bairstow had slipped on a golf course and badly broken his leg.

Hales and Jos Buttler celebrate the memorable semi-final victory of Pakistan at the World Cup

Hales and Jos Buttler celebrate the memorable semi-final victory of Pakistan at the World Cup

Coach Matthew Mott admitted on Friday it was a gamble to bring back Hales, particularly as it quickly became clear he had barely rebuilt his bridges with Ben Stokes after their joint involvement in the incident in Bristol which could have ended the careers of both.

‘I know Jos rang around a few people and consulted with them,’ said the man who could become the second Australian after Trevor Bayliss to coach England to a World Cup.

‘I certainly rang Trevor about how he thought Alex would fit back in the side and he gave him a glowing review. So for us it was just about him coming back and performing. From the moment he’s returned to the squad he’s just been himself and relaxed. He’s playing a lot of golf which has been good for him. He’s been great to have around.’

Now comes the moment when England could become the first side to unite the 50-over and T20 world titles as long as a tournament that has been synonymous with a combination of bad weather and unpredictable cricket does not reach a soggy anti-climax.

England's Matthew Mott took a gamble in bringing back Alex Hales into the international fold

England’s Matthew Mott took a gamble in bringing back Alex Hales into the international fold 

The forecast for Melbourne on Sunday has been dreadful all week but it has been improving as the final has approached and there should be enough time, at least over two days, of the 10 overs a side that will be needed to constitute a game in the final.

As an added precaution ICC organisers have extended the hours for Monday’s reserve day and will re-start the final at 3pm local time if it is impossible to get a game in Sunday.

It can only be hoped it does not come to that because England’s moment appears to have come, just as it did when, like here, they needed to win all their last four games in the 2019 World Cup to win the tournament.

They have won three of them here now and even though they look sure to again be without the injured Mark Wood and Dawid Malan, they are hot favourites to add that all-important fourth.

England fans will hope to see similar celebrations from the players on Sunday night in Melbourne for the final

England fans will hope to see similar celebrations from the players on Sunday night in Melbourne for the final 

‘Whenever you come into a group it can take time to build relationships,’ said Mott, who endured a difficult first summer as white-ball coach. ‘But even when we were struggling there was a camaraderie in the group and the players looked out for each other.

‘I think the team had lost a little bit of its mojo and a little bit of swagger, which can happen when you have changes of leadership.

‘Now we are back to where we want to be. The team are trusting each other’s games, as you saw in Adelaide. So we will go into this final really confident but we know we’re playing a good Pakistan team who are on a run so we won’t take anything for granted.’

This has to be England’s and Alex Hales time. He will surely leave, if a full game is possible, with that winners medal to finally make up for the bad times that almost engulfed him.


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