England news December 4, 2017

Hales set to return to action after being cleared by police

ESPNcricinfo staff

Alex Hales is set to make his return to cricket later this month, in the inaugural T10 Cricket League in Dubai, after it was confirmed that he is no longer a suspect in relation to the incident in Bristol in September that led to the arrest of his team-mate, Ben Stokes.

Hales had been present in Mbargo nightclub on the morning of September 25, in the aftermath of England's ODI victory over West Indies, when Stokes was arrested following an altercation in which he appeared to swing punches at two men.

The pair were made unavailable for selection for the remaining two games of that series, with Hales returning to Bristol voluntarily to help Avon and Somerset Police with their enquiries.

Stokes, who had initially been named as England's vice-captain for the Ashes before being withdrawn from the squad, recently made his comeback to cricket, after flying to New Zealand to play for Canterbury in the 50-over Ford Trophy.

Hales has yet to play since the incident. However, the ECB has approved a formal request for a No Objection Certificate to allow him to play in the inaugural T10 Cricket League in Dubai from December 21-24. He could yet be offered a BBL opportunity, too, which could potentially see him play in Australia during England's Ashes tour.

The ECB board convened via conference call to make the decision after being informed that Hales is deemed a witness and will face no charges.

It remains possible that Hales, and Stokes, could be named in England's ODI and T20 squads to face New Zealand and Australia in the New Year. However, the independent Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) has stayed the internal disciplinary process for both Hales and Stokes until the conclusion of any potential criminal proceedings relating to the incident.

That means that Hales could still face sanction from the ECB - for being out so later during an ODI series, for example - though it remains possible it could be backdated to include the period he has already missed.

It may be relevant, however, that while Hales was out of the side for two ODIs at the end of the English summer, Jonny Bairstow appeared to cement his position as an opening batsman. He scored an unbeaten 141 in Southampton and an unbeaten 100 in Manchester. While Jason Roy came back into the side and scored 84 at The Oval and 96 at Southampton as Bairstow's opening partner. As a result, the way back for Hales may not be straightforward.