Alex Hales faces a crucial meeting with the England management this weekend with his World Cup place on the line after it emerged he is serving a 21-day ban for recreational drug use.

England's carefully laid World Cup plans, which have been four years in the making, have been hit by injury and now a drugs scandal that threatens to undermine the team culture crafted by captain, Eoin Morgan.

It was announced last week that Hales would be taking a break from cricket for "personal reasons" but it was confirmed on Friday he is in fact serving a three-week suspension for failing a drugs test for the second time.

Telegraph Sport understands he has already apologised to England's senior management and made it clear it will not happen again but that may not be enough to save his World Cup place.


Under England & Wales Cricket Board rules, a second positive test results in an automatic 21-day ban from all cricket, a third would bring a 12-month suspension. Hales' ban will have run out by the time England play Ireland in Dublin on Friday and he will join the team's three-day training camp in Cardiff on Saturday as planned.

But his World Cup future will be decided by Ashley Giles, the newly installed director of cricket who beat other candidates to the job partly because of his strong line on discipline. Waiting in the wings is James Vince, who scored 190 for Hampshire on Friday in the Royal London Cup, and could take Hales's place as the spare opener in England's World Cup squad.

Giles will be furious, as will Tom Harrison, the board's chief executive, and chairman, Colin Graves. They laid down the law to the England team when they were caught in a series of late night boozing incidents that culminated in the affray court case involving Ben Stokes. Hales was present with Stokes that night and questioned by police about his involvement in the fight but was never charged, despite CCTV footage of him kicking out at a man on the ground.

Hales was handed a two-match suspended ban in December for his involvement in the Stokes incident. That was for bringing the game into disrepute and he was warned it would kick in if he was guilty of any "serious breach of cricketing regulations". The ECB has to decide if this is a cricketing issue or not.

Regardless of that decision, his presence will be a distraction in Dublin next week and Giles will have to decide whether to act quickly.

When Giles was interviewed last year one of the main points of questioning from the board was how he would tackle the team culture after months of bad publicity that tarnished the game's reputation. He has promised to be a strict disciplinarian and with the board set to launch its Hundred tournament, aimed at a family audience, next year there will be immense pressure from above to take a hard stance against anyone who steps out of line during this high profile summer for the sport.

But there is also a duty of care to a player, he has not tried to cheat by taking a performance-enhancing drug and recreational drug offences are dealt with as lifestyle issues in cricket, similar to the way gambling or alcohol dependency would be treated. It may also be decided that it is easier to keep an eye on Hales's behaviour within the England set-up than if he were cast out.

Pragmatism may also kick in. Jason Roy is struggling with back and hamstring injuries, one potential reserve batsman, Sam Billings, is out for the season after learning he needs surgery on a dislocated shoulder and Hales remains one of the best white-ball batsmen in world cricket.

Hales was given a two-game suspended ban in December. Photo / Getty
Hales was given a two-game suspended ban in December. Photo / Getty

But equally, there are cricketing reasons why Giles could axe him from the World Cup. It would send a message to young cricketers tempted by such behaviour but he has also seriously undermined Morgan, who has demanded his players to show self-discipline and dedicate the first half of this year purely to winning the World Cup on home soil, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

By putting that at risk, it threatens Morgan's authority. Hales has also run out of support from the coaching staff, who long ago became fed up with his attitude and behaviour. There was a wall of support for Stokes when he was charged with affray last year, captains and coaches lined up to offer public backing but that will not be the case for Hales. He has few allies left in the management, if any at all.

A spokesman for Hales confirmed his ban and that he had "accepted it was right he was suspended" and is now "fully focussed on a return to cricket and is committed to working tirelessly for both Nottinghamshire and England".

Trevor Bayliss, the head coach, is reluctant to become involved in disciplinary cases and will leave the decision to Giles. The key figure in all this will be Morgan, who has absolute control over the one-day team.

Hales lost his England place after his involvement in the Bristol incident and has not played regularly due to the emergence of Jonny Bairstow, who is now Roy's regular opening partner.

Under ECB rules, a player is offered counselling the first time they test positive for recreational drugs. It is only on the second occasion a player's employer, namely their county, is told and they are banned for 21 days as well as fined 5 per cent of their salary. Durham's Jack Burnham was banned last year for 12 months when he racked up a third failed test. Hair follicle tests are taken at the start and end of every season.