Another poor knock by Jason Roy will have perhaps stung even more given the England opener had earlier seen Alex Hales provide another timely reminder of his ability and power.
Roy, a pivotal part of England’s white-ball successes over recent years, has had a horrid summer, scoring 76 runs in six Twenty20 internationals and just 30 across five innings for the Oval Invincibles in The Hundred.
In contrast, Hales is a batter at the peak of his powers, reminding everyone with a blistering 59 off 29 balls for Trent Rockets on Wednesday.
While it is unclear if England would recall for Hales, who has not played since March 2019 because of off-field issues, it is becoming hard to ignore his persistent and loud knocking at the door, especially with Roy’s lack of form.
Speaking in February 2020, then-England captain Eoin Morgan said “there was a breakdown in trust between Alex and the team” and “a considerable amount of time” was needed to regain that trust.
Hales, who has scored 1,644 runs in 60 T20 internationals, has amassed run after run away from England and has said “the last three years have probably been the best I’ve played in T20 cricket”.
He has scored 1,502 runs in the last three Big Bash League tournaments in Australia – where October and November’s T20 World Cup will take place – at average of 36.63 and a strike-rate of 152.33.
The 33-year-old has 209 runs in five innings in this year’s Hundred, on the back of averaging 44.38 in the Pakistan Super League for Islamabad United and 26.71 in the T20 Blast for Notts Outlaws.
When asked if he still harboured England aspirations after Rockets’ win over Northern Superchargers last week, Hales told BBC Sport: “I hope so – I feel in a really good place and like I’ve got a lot to offer in this format.”
Speaking after Wednesday’s game, Morgan, who was working for Sky Sports, said: “His quality has been never been a question. It is whether the team would like him in the side and whether the captain and coach trust him.
“He’ll go into a pool of players with the likes of Will Jacks, Phil Salt and Will Smeed. There is no doubt that he is extremely destructive and a match-winner.”
England Test bowler James Anderson told BBC Sport that captain Jos Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott will “be looking at him”, while former batter and Sky Sports pundit Mark Butcher said: “Hales keeps doing it. If England need someone he is your man, without any question.”
When appointed in May, England’s director of men’s cricket Roy Key said: “I will have to speak to the people involved in that decision but I would have Alex Hales available for selection.
“He has done his time.”
Hales’ latest knock was a fine example of where his game is at – there was brutal power, with one six landing on the roof at Trent Bridge, but also touch and guile to rotate the strike.
However, he is not the only player capable of replacing Roy if England do decide to make a change.
The Hundred has seen two centuries this year and both have come from up-and-coming English talent in Birmingham Phoenix’s Smeed and Oval Invincibles’ Jacks.
At 20, Smeed is raw but has featured for England Lions – their B team – in one-day internationals against South Africa this summer, while Jacks, 23, has been a regular part of that set-up over the past few years.
Morgan said Smeed’s century would “make him a domestic hero” and that Jacks has “been exceptional and he strikes the ball like an international player,” while his off-spin, a facet that neither Hales or Smeed offer, is “definitely a plus”.
England often like to promote from within their squad though, particularly before major tournaments, meaning Lancashire and Manchester Originals’ Salt could be the beneficiary if Roy is dropped.
Salt was England’s solution when Ben Stokes suddenly retired from ODIs in July, and has played in eight ODIs and four T20s for England over the past 13 months.
They also have the option of promoting Hales’ Rockets opening parter Dawid Malan, who told BBC Sport, “I probably do my best work when I’m opening the batting,” or Jonny Bairstow, who are both regulars in the T20 side.
Whether or not England will make the call to drop Roy remains to be seen, but there is a long queue starting to form at the door.