Alex Hales shows all the skills in England Twenty20 win over West Indies
Alex Hales reflected on the best day of his young career after he blasted 99 to inspire England to a seven-wicket win in the one-off NatWest Twenty20 international against West Indies at Trent Bridge.
In just his fifth England appearance the 23-year-old opener proved he was ready to fill the match-winning void left by Kevin Pietersen’s retirement with the highest Twenty20 score by an England batsman.
Hales mixed heavy hitting with some mature strokeplay as a 159-run stand with Ravi Bopara (59) for the second wicket ensured England reeled in a difficult-looking chase of 172 for four with two balls to spare.
While Hales was left disconsolate after falling just one run short of a deserved ton, when bowled by Ravi Rampaul in the penultimate over with four required for victory, the Nottinghamshire right-hander was left to reflect on a memorable day on his home ground.
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“I was gutted to get out just short of 100 but at the same time we managed to get a win,” said Hales, who was still dressed in his pads at the post-match press conference.
“But once it kicked in that I had got 99 in front of a home crowd I was thrilled.
“That’s definitely been the highlight of my career so far. Without a shadow of doubt.”
The premature retirement of Pietersen – the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman when he called time on his limited overs career – has left England relying on a talented if young batting line-up ahead of their World Twenty20 title defence later this year. And Hales, who at 6ft 5in has the same towering presence at the crease as Pietersen, admitted he had targeted securing Pietersen’s place for the World Twenty20, saying: “Definitely so. I’m very pleased that the selectors backed me for this game.
“Hopefully I’ve shown them what I can do at this level and I’m very pleased I managed to cash in today.”
England have just three more games scheduled, against South Africa in August, before they are due to fly out to Sri Lanka for their title defence a month later.
Stuart Broad’s side boasted just two of the batsmen – Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan – from the team that won the World Twenty20 final two years ago with Hales among four batsmen to have less than nine appearances to their name.
While Broad, who was able to celebrate his 26th birthday with victory, admitted he had a young batting line-up at his disposal he believes that could be a perfect suit for the shortest format.
“It is an inexperienced batting line-up but I think with inexperience you also get a bit of fearlessness as well and guys just go out and hit the ball,” he said.
“Chasing 170 is quite a daunting target but I don’t think we ever had any negative thoughts in our mind.
“We still had a lot of batsmen left in the changing room who were capable of winning that game.”
England had looked in some trouble after a late West Indies onslaught helped them set a difficult chase.
After Steven Finn removed danger man Chris Gayle for just two, West Indies slipped to three for 30 before Dwayne Smith revived the tourists with 70 off 54 balls.
That paved the way for the tourists powerful middle-order to take over as unbeaten pair Dwayne Bravo (54) and Kieron Pollard (23) clubbed 63 off the final four overs.
“At the halfway stage I thought 170 was a bit above the par set at Trent Bridge but actually on that wicket I thought it was very gettable and we just needed someone to bat through,” Broad said.
“Fortunately we had two guys who managed to get themselves in and got us as close as they could to the score. In Twenty20 cricket we know it can change in one over and for the two guys to stay as calm as they did and get us as close as they did was great to see.”