Hales returns in style as England win T20

·3-min read

Alex Hales has celebrated the end of his international exile with a crucial half-century as England's first match in Pakistan for almost 17 years ended with a six-wicket victory in the first Twenty20.

The opener cracked 53 in 40 balls on his first England outing since March 2019, when he was jettisoned in the wake of testing positive for a recreational drug.

His return followed the retirement of skipper Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy's loss of form, then a freak golfing injury suffered by Jonny Bairstow.

It was a very special feeling to be back on the park for England," he said. "Three years felt like forever. To go out and score 50 in my return in a winning team is the stuff dreams are made of.

"It is a nice feeling. Guys said in the past it was never down to cricket, missing the three years, that was never in doubt. But there was always nerves and pressure coming back after three years having not played. It felt like a debut again, so it was a very special night."

Hales, who has played several seasons in the Pakistan Super League, added: "It just feels like a dream come true. To contribute with a half-century in a winning team in a country where I have a lot of special memories feels fantastic."

England had earlier done well to restrict the hosts to 7-158 in front of a sell-out 35,000 crowd at Karachi's National Stadium on Tuesday, with debutant Luke Wood claiming an impressive three for 24.

Pakistan got the game off to flier, with Mohammad Rizwan (68) and Babar Azam (31) cashing in on a lightning outfield. They took a particular liking to David Willey, who was unable to extract his usual swing with the new ball, as he leaked 26 from two costly overs at the top.

Lancashire left-armer Wood had a solid introduction, allowing just 12 off his first two and managing a strangled lbw appeal against Rizwan, but Pakistan galloped past 50 off the last ball of the sixth over.

Rizwan welcomed the shift to spin by pinging Moeen Ali back over his head for six but Adil Rashid's arrival did the trick as a 10th-over googly skidded through the surface and pegged back Babar's middle and off stumps.

Pakistan never quite got back to their best after their openers were parted, scoring 71 and losing six wickets in the second half of the innings with only Iftikhar Ahmed (28) prospering.

Hales and Phil Salt began the reply with 14 off the opening over but Salt was brilliantly caught by Haider Ali after middling a pull to deep square.

Hales led England to 1-47 by the end of the powerplay receiving support from Dawid Malan (20) and Ben Duckett (21).

Dropped at long-on by Shan Masood on 28 Hales was out the ball after reaching 50.

Harry Brook ensured no drama, helping himself to seven fours in a vibrant 42-run 25-ball cameo.