Hales leads England to record-breaking win

Hales’ matchwinning innings, on his home ground, overtook Eoin Morgan’s unbeaten 85 against South Africa at Johannesburg as England’s best in this format and secured his place for the World Twenty20 title defence in Sri Lanka later this year. He fell to the last ball of penultimate over, bowled trying to work Ravi Rampaul to leg, and neither could Ravi Bopara stay to the end as he found long-off for 59 off 44 balls, but Eoin Morgan collected the winning runs (with the help of a misfield at mid-off) with two deliveries remaining.

The second-wicket partnership – England’s highest in T20Is and the third-highest by any team – was a superbly constructed stand by two batsmen still trying to find their place in international cricket. Although Hales struck four sixes, smart placement and quick running were key ingredients to their success as they exploited a large playing area. West Indies had earlier gone down a more brutal route with the final eight overs of their innings bringing 107 runs as Dwayne Bravo sparkled and in all they hit 10 sixes.

As in the one-day series, West Indies’ bowling disappointed and there were a number of fumbles in the field which aided England’s progress. Sunil Narine went wicketless in the format that has made his name, although did not have much luck. In the 13th over – his third – he watched a Bopara shot fall between two fielders then Hales got a bottom edge between the keeper’s legs. With 22 needed off 17 balls Bopara was dropped at midwicket by Darren Sammy off Narine, which was West Indies last chance to try and exert some pressure on a new batsman.

As with Ian Bell’s success at the top of the order in 50-over cricket, Hales’ performance is a significant moment as England aim to fill the vacancy left by Kevin Pietersen’s enforced retirement from Twenty20. Hales had a brief taste in the team last year – against India and West Indies – but missed out against Pakistan in the UAE, when Pietersen opened alongside Craig Kieswetter.

Three of Hales’ sixes came from hooks and pulls, after some discussion last year that he struggled against short bowling. He favoured the leg side early in his innings, but picked up more runs through the off side the longer he stayed, including a couple of expertly placed late cuts. A feature of England’s chase was each time a boundary was needed to release some pressure either Hales or Bopara found the rope. The five overs from 13 to 17 all went for double figures to keep them ahead of the rate.

It was an equally important innings for Bopara who is still trying to find his home in both limited-overs formats. His chances in the 50-over series were limited but this was an opportunity to shape a match at a crucial stage and his 59 was also a career-best. With 46 needed off 30 balls he took two important boundaries off Marlon Samuels then latched on to a poor penultimate over by Rampaul with two leg-side fours. It did not appear West Indies would post such a testing target when they slipped to 30 for 3. Steven Finn had set a good tone for England with a tight, rapid, opening over. There was a clear plan to bowl short at Chris Gayle and it did not take long for the ploy to work when he top-edged a well-directed bouncer from Finn to fine leg where Jonny Bairstow held a well-judged catch.

Bairstow showed his prowess in the outfield again when he sprinted in from the boundary edge to dive and slide to get underneath Lendl Simmons’ pull at deep midwicket. One area where this England Twenty20 side should not suffer is in the field with Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Morgan all outstanding.

The six-over Powerplay brought just 29 runs for West Indies. Graeme Swann then struck with his second delivery with one that gripped to take Samuels’ glove and bobble through to Kieswetter. Smith started to locate the boundary again in the ninth over with consecutive blows off Swann and also drove Samit Patel straight drive down the ground, a shot he repeated with even greater distance in Swann’s final over. It was superbly controlled striking – not hot-headed slogging – and his third six took him to fifty off 46 balls.

Following Smith’s departure Kieron Pollard had five overs to make an impression and saw Patel’s final over as an opportunity cut loose, as it went for 14. It meant England’s eight combined overs of spin – which will be important in Sri Lanka – had cost 66 while Jade Dernbach’s last spell was expensive. Bravo, having worked his way to 22 off 24 balls, finished the innings in style as 32 came off his final 12 deliveries but he was not the batsman being talked about when the game finished.

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