Notts offer support to Alex Hales but new contract isn't guaranteed

Alex Hales smiles for the camera ahead of his Nottinghamshire comeback Getty Images

Nottinghamshire have offered England outcast Alex Hales an arm round the shoulder as he seeks to rebuild his shattered career, while at the same time making it clear that he needs to deliver on the field if he is to secure his future at the county.

Hales saw his desire to be back on the field after his expulsion from England's World Cup squad thwarted as rain washed out Nottinghamshire's Royal London One-Day Cup tie against Durham at Grantham Cricket Club, but Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, made it clear that the batsman had been welcomed back into the fold following his 21-day suspension for a second recreational drug offence.

"Alex knows how we feel about the way he has behaved, that it fell way short of what we expect at the club, but he is very contrite about it and we are all going to work together to make sure it doesn't happen again," Newell said.

"His relationship with our dressing room is very good. Whenever he plays for us, he is always the same sort of character, the lads enjoy his company back in the changing rooms.

"They want to see him do well and whenever he comes back in I think his record for Notts shows that he is totally committed to playing whenever he is available."

Hales's latest misdemeanour, which follows his involvement with the brawl that ended with team-mate Ben Stokes in court on affray charges (from which was acquitted last year), brought a scathing condemnation from Eoin Morgan on the eve of England's ODI against Ireland, the team's captain speaking of a "breakdown in trust" between Hales and the other players.

But Newell rejected the notion that the batsman was a character who deserved to be ostracised. "I understand what the England players have done and I respect the decision they have made," Newell said.

"But I've known him for 12 years and as a character, I don't see him as the bad boy of cricket at all. He's just made poor decisions, mistakes. He realises now that he can't afford to make those mistakes again.

"What a price he has paid. He has been left out of the World Cup squad. That's as bad a penalty as I can think of for anybody in cricket. But we have tried to make him aware that we want to support him. Ultimately, though, they are his decisions and his lifestyle has to be the right one."

Nonetheless, while stopping short of issuing him with a final warning, the county has made it clear that Hales must also make a meaningful contribution on the field, in the job he is paid to do, if he is to secure a contract beyond his current deal, which expires at the end of this season.

Because he is on a white ball-only contract, that means making an immediate impact in what remains of the Royal London Cup, followed by a major contribution to Nottinghamshire's campaign in the Vitality Blast T20.

"He will have two, hopefully three 50-over matches if we get to the final, and then at least 14 T20 matches," Newell said. "If he has an impact on our season like he did in 2017, when we won both white-ball trophies, then that is the best he can possibly hope for.

"If that comes combined with him understanding that he needs the network of support we put in place around him, to ensure that he makes better decisions in the future, as he is well aware he must, if that all falls into place then there is no reason why he can't play for Notts for a number of years.

"We are hopeful he is going to have a really good summer and we will sit down and talk to him at some point in August-September time."

Newell admitted he was unhappy he was not allowed to be clear about the reason for Hales's absence from the county's early one-day fixtures, which he had to say was for "personal reasons" because of the ECB's confidentiality agreement with the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) over recreational drug offences.

"There is a process in place agreed by the ECB and the PCA that you have to adhere to and we were as honest as we felt that we could be, given that," he said. "But it created a vacuum of information where you couldn't tell people why Alex was not playing. I don't like being in a position where I have to say 'no comment' but you have to stick to the policy. It was not ideal."