ENGLAND captain Stuart Broad described Alex Hales’ record-breaking innings in yesterday’s crucial World Twenty20 win against Sri Lanka as one of the finest he had ever witnessed.
Hales carried his bat as England recovered from losing two wickets in their first over to reach 190-4 and complete their highest-ever successful run chase in T20 cricket, with the opening batsman’s sensational innings of 116 from 64 balls the biggest score by an Englishman in the sport’s shortest format.
England have played virtually non-stop cricket overseas since the Ashes series began in November, but Broad was in no doubt as to the highlight of a tumultuous winter.
“I’ve seen some special knocks in Test cricket, but in a World Cup on the biggest stage, in conditions that are a little bit foreign to us, it’s one of the best knocks I’ve ever seen,” said Broad.
“It’s the best we’ve seen in an England shirt this winter, because it was match-winning.
“The calmness he showed to keep England up with the rate all the way through and then the skill he showed to clear the ropes at the end.”
After losing their first match in Bangladesh to New Zealand, England go into tomorrow’s Group One clash with South Africa knowing victory will leave them on the brink of qualification to the knockout phase, with the Netherlands to play on Monday.
“We’ve got to win both games and I believe we can do that,” added Broad.
“The confidence and belief we’ll get from this is massive and this group is wide open.”
Broad’s decision to put Sri Lanka into bat having won the coin toss looked vindicated when Jade Dernbach (2-42) claimed Kusal Perera’s wicket in the second over. But Tillakaratne Dilshan (55) and Mahela Jayawardene (89) put on 145 runs for the second wicket to help Sri Lanka finish on 189-4.
England’s reply started disastrously, with Michael Lumb and Moen Ali both falling to Nuwan Kulasekara (4-32) before a run had been scored.
Eoin Morgan’s arrival at the crease to join Hales proved pivotal though, with the pair forming a 152-run partnership, the sixth highest-ever in international T20 matches.
Morgan was another of Kulasekara’s victims, falling for 57 off 38 balls, shortly after Hales had hit Ajantha Mendis for 25 in the 15th over. Needing seven runs from the final over to win, Hales smashed his sixth six of the innings to ensure victory with four balls to spare.