Alex Hales will return to the Sydney Thunder for the Big Bash as he becomes the first overseas player to sign a new deal with the league ahead of what is expected to be the arrival of a significant number of England players.
Tom Banton (Brisbane Heat) and Tom Curran (Sydney Sixers) are so far the only other confirmed overseas names for the tournament but they had existing deals with their clubs.
Hales, who was dropped from the England side shortly before the 2019 World Cup after receiving a ban for using recreational drugs and has not played since, was the second-highest run scorer in last season’s BBL with 576 at 38.40 and a strike-rate of 146.93.
“To get the chance to come back is exciting because we’re at the start of something,” Hales said. “I think the next two-to-three years is going to be very special for Sydney Thunder as a franchise. I really believe that, and to know I’m coming back to that means a lot.”
It is expected that England names will feature strongly in this season’s BBL. ESPNcricinfo previously reported that Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy were lining up deals while Dawid Malan, the current No.1-ranked T20I batsman, is also in the mix and Liam Livingstone is tipped to head back to the Perth Scorchers.
However, with England in talks about a limited-overs tour of South Africa in November it remains to be seen the availability of those who would be part of the squad. Overseas players arriving for the BBL will need to undergo two weeks of quarantine when they reach Australia amid the Covid-19 protocols.
Shane Bond, the Sydney Thunder coach, said: “There’s a whole range of reasons to be excited about Alex extending his contract – and they’re exactly why we signed him in the first place. He is a great player who is available for the entire tournament.
“He played brilliantly for us last year, but he was brilliant on-and-off the field. He was hugely popular with the players and support staff – and that’s how Alex is viewed wherever he plays.
“We have some very talented players in our squad, and it is important to have those professionals, like Alex, around so they can learn off them as well. Everyone in the team is looking forward to having him back, he’s a brilliant bloke.”
The revised fixture list for the BBL – which is currently due to start on December 3 – is yet to be confirmed by Cricket Australia but there is a chance it will be played in rolling hubs around the country to navigate the various Covid-19 border restrictions.