Rob Key hints at open door for Alex Hales to make England return | England cricket team

Alex Hales could be a second blacklisted player in the England fold this summer after Rob Key said the opener should be considered available for selection.

The 33-year-old has not played international cricket since failing a recreational drugs test on the eve of the 2019 World Cup and losing the trust of Eoin Morgan, England’s all-powerful limited-overs captain, in the process.

Ed Smith, the former national selector, had floated the idea of Hales training with the England squad last summer only to lose his job before it could be set up. Morgan may still have a view here but Key, the new managing director of men’s cricket, believes three years out is long enough.

Key said: “I will have to speak to the people involved in that decision but I would have Alex Hales available for selection. I think he has done his time. But does that mean he gets in the team? That is a different debate.”

Hales, who has been prodigious on the global Twenty20 circuit since being dropped by England, is the second Nottinghamshire batsman to be offered a potential lifeline after Key name-checked Joe Clarke as a player of promise in his first press conference at Lord’s on Thursday. Clarke, 25, has long been tipped for international honours but has had a line put through his name after he was caught up in the 2019 court case when his former Worcestershire teammate, Alex Hepburn, was jailed for rape.

The Court heard that Clarke was involved in a WhatsApp group with Hepburn and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, another former teammate, in which sexual encounters were the subject of a points-scoring system. The judge labelled it “a pathetic, sexist game” which “demeaned women and trivialised rape”.

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Clarke and Kohler-Cadmore apologised after the England and Wales Cricket Board issued £2,000 fines, four-match bans and sent the pair on an educational training course.

But while the former was placed on standby for the recent Caribbean Test tour, a full call-up this summer – possibly in England’s white-ball team, based on his strong T20 form – would likely still invite much criticism.Clarke was reprimanded for bringing the game into disrepute and issued a written apology.

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