The pair missed the final two ODIs against West Indies at the end of the English summer after the ECB announced that neither would be considered for selection until the conclusion of a police investigation following an incident outside a club in Bristol.
While Hales has been now been told that he will not face charges and has, as a consequence, been cleared for international selection by the ECB, Stokes is still waiting to hear whether he will be charged and remains unavailable for selection. His inclusion in the squad might, therefore, be considered something of a legalistic nicety.
While Hales, too, could still face action from the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) – it has currently suspended judgement awaiting the outcome of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision over whether to charge Stokes – he is, at the present time, available for selection.
But, after Jason Roy returned to the ODI side in fine style and Jonny Bairstow all but cemented his place as an opening batsman during the series against West Indies, it has left no obvious place available for Hales’ return. Bairstow scored two centuries in the ODI series against West Indies, while Roy replaced Hales for the final two games and made 84 and 96.
“We’ve been playing some good one-day cricket and Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy at the top of the order have played well,” the England coach, Trevor Bayliss, said. “I can’t see any changes there personally. The two openers we had did very well and it would be difficult to go against them.
“We could bring Hales back in and drop one of those guys down, but then it would upset someone else. We’ve got to take a decision now and I just think the best way to go is with the two guys who have taken over.”
England have named a full-strength squad for the series with Mark Wood returning having not been selected for the series against West Indies. While there was discussion about the value of resting players, the England management have instead decided it is important to establish a settled, successful team ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Players will instead be rested from the tri-series T20 event that follows it, which might create opportunities for the likes of Craig Overton, who has clearly made a good impression in Australia.
“History will tell you that the winners of the World Cup have come from the top two ranked teams,” Bayliss said. “We want to play well and get ourselves high up that order as we possibly can.
“At the same time, we’re still two years away and there might be some younger players, like Craig Overton for example, who comes into the team and does well.
“We’ll keep a check on players such as Joe Root and Moeen Ali in this Test series and the one-dayers. Hopefully, if all goes to plan, they’ll play these five Test matches and the five one-dayers as well and then we’ll look at giving them a break.”
Meanwhile Bayliss admitted there had been discussion over how to avoid the “media circus” that has bedevilled the squad since Stokes’ arrest came to light.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of scrutiny,” Bayliss said. “We won’t know it actually until it comes along. There’s been a fair bit of scrutiny that’s come along with it in the first five or six weeks of this tour as well. But we’ve got to adjust to that at some stage.
“Look, we have discussed what will happen when Ben returns, but whenever he comes back that’s going to be a bit of a circus for sure. Whether it’s any more of a circus than we’ve already seen on this tour is hard to say. If it happens, let’s just get on with it and take it on the chin.”
The ECB board will meet within 48-hours of any decision of whether to charge Stokes or not and decide whether he should be considered eligible for selection. The ECB’s CDC will also have to decide if he or Hales warrant any sanction.