Hales blitz fires England to win over Sri Lanka at World T20
First T20 century by an England batsman keeps Stuart Broad's team in contention
ALEX HALES hit one of the greatest innings in T20 World Cup history as England beat Sri Lanka by six wickets to keep alive their hopes of winning the trophy they last lifted in 2010.
Describing Hales' unbeaten 116 off 64 balls as "one of the most brilliant Twenty20 innings I've ever seen", BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew added: "I don't think England's players can quite believe it. They were a shambles in the field but Hales has played the innings of his life and got them out of jail."
England were indeed shambolic in the field, misfielding and dropping four catches as Sri Lanka compiled a daunting score in their 20 overs of 189-4 with Mahela Jayawardene hitting 89 off 51 deliveries.
However, there was controversy when the Sri Lankan appeared to have been caught first ball, only for the third umpire to rule Michael Lumb's diving effort not out. That shook England and they went on to drop Jayawardene twice during his innings.
England went out to bat at Chittagong knowing that they had never chased down such a formidable total in T20 history. And they got off to a shocker, losing Lumb and Moeen Ali in the first over without scoring. At 0 for 2, English cricket was once again staring humiliation in the face but then the 25-year-old Hales strode to the wicket.
With a previous T20 international best of 99, Hales' ability is no trade secret but nonetheless the way he dismantled the Sri Lankan bowling attack was extraordinary. While Hales smashed their seamers to all corners of the ground, partner Eoin Morgan meted out similar punishment to their spinners, the Irishman hitting seven fours and two sixes in his 38-ball knock of 57.
Once Hales, who was dropped on 55, by Jayawardene of all people, had finished with Sri Lanka's quickies, he turned his wrath on their spinners, blasting Ajantha Mendis for 25 runs in one over, including three sixes in four balls.
Hales brought up his century in style, cracking a six over cover, and he won the game for England with another shot that cleared the ropes. "I'm absolutely buzzing!" Hales exclaimed. "Centuries in this format don't come along very often and I've got out in the nineties a couple of times so this is brilliant."
Despite the stirring victory, England remain fourth in the five-team group after losing their opening rain-affected game to New Zealand and they face South Africa at the same venue on Saturday. "We'll have to raise our standards with the catching," said captain Stuart Broad. "We've got away with it today with an unbelievable knock from two of our guys."