Alex Hales felt like he was making his England debut again when he returned from a 3 1/2-year exile and anchored it to victory over Pakistan in the first Twenty20 of the series.
Hales returned to England colours on Tuesday for the first time since his second failed test for recreational drugs forced him to miss the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
He hit 53 runs off 40 balls as England chased down the target of 159 with four balls to spare.
“There were always nerves and pressure coming back after three years. Three years felt like forever,” Hales said. “It felt like a debut again. It feels like a dream come true to come back and contribute with a half-century in a winning team.”
Hales came into England’s planning for the T20 World Cup in Australia next month after Jonny Bairstow was freakishly injured while playing golf and ruled out of the mega event.
Hales struggled to get going in the first six overs of the batting powerplay but blossomed after getting dropped twice in his 20s as he reached his half-century off 39 balls with a flick against fast bowler Haris Rauf to the fine leg boundary.
Hales and Harry Brook dominated the Pakistan fast bowlers at the back end of the run chase with some fluent boundaries.
“The deeper you take it, the more fluent the innings becomes,” he said. “I got a couple of boundaries away towards the end and killed the game with Harry.”
During his exile from international cricket, Hales featured prominently in domestic T20 leagues around the world that included stints in the Pakistan Super League.
The stadium on Tuesday was nearly packed to its capacity of 34,000 to witness England’s first match in Pakistan in 17 years.
“I’ve been lucky to have played in front of full houses here before and it’s just outstanding,” Hales said. “It’s one of the best places to play cricket in the world and the fans really put on a show.”
The second T20 is on Thursday at the same ground.