Alex Hales misses century but relishes his 20 overs of fame as England comfortably beat Australia
England comfortably square series as Twenty20 specialist hits 94 and Dernbach shines with ball
After all these years there remains something vaguely of the outsider about the Twenty20 specialist. He is like the chap who is allowed to join the club but is not really one of us, old boy. It is almost acceptable to be sniffy about them.
Alex Hales is becoming the embodiment of the short form batsman. He made his sixth international Twenty20 half-century in 21 innings yesterday. It was a bristling, fearless affair, front leg usually cleared out of the way to be followed by a biff or a bang.
The total of 195 for six which his 94 from 61 balls enabled England to reach was eventually ample for them to level the two-match Twenty20 mini-series at 1-1. There were moments when Australia threatened to up the ante in their pursuit but the loss of wickets always forced them to regroup and start again. The margin was 27 runs.
Hales was slightly disappointed not to become the first player to make a century for England in a T20 match. By now, he deserves to have his name on that particular honours board. Last year he was out for 99 against New Zealand and in the winter he had blazed an unbeaten 80 from 42 balls when the target was reached.
Yet he has made barely a first-class run this season for Nottinghamshire, where he has averaged under 15 in the Championship. Hales may wish it was otherwise but then again he is playing on the international stage when 10 years ago he almost certainly would not have been, not even in the 50-over stuff.
This winter, he will return to Melbourne Renegades for the KFC Big Bash, a line of close season employment which would also not have existed in 2003 when Twenty20 was invented.
Still only 24, there is time for him to hone his game in other forms but the likelihood is that his achievements and his fame will be solely in the shortest form.
Hales and his trusty opening partner, Michael Lumb, shared a first wicker partnership of 111 in 11.2 overs, their fourth above 50 in nine attempts. This is some going. Lumb, as ever, was quicker out of the blocks but if Hales was more measured he eventually found his range on the largest playing area in the country. He pulled, drove and slogged to cow corner, in essence all-round T20 batting.
When Lumb top-edged a pull to the wicketkeeper, Matthew Wade, Luke Wright bludgeoned and Eoin Morgan scythed with equal rapidity. There seemed just enough balls for Hales to make his hundred when he struck a low full toss to long on. While it is true that T20 openers will inevitably hold most of the batting records, he now has three of England's top seven scores.
Having made 248 in the first match and chosen to field, Australia must have rather welcomed the pursuit. It was hardly the Ashes but it was the pick me up that their tour badly needed.
They were never quite in the hunt from the moment the record breaker from the first match, Aaron Finch, was out to his fifth ball. Shane Watson was run out by Morgan from point in the third over and Australia were already up against it.
David Warner let England know they were in a contest and welcomed the spin of Danny Briggs with fours over mid-on and cover and a booming six over long on. With Warner anything is possible but when he was caught by the cover sweeper, the ball after being dropped at deep mid-off by Steven Finn, the rest was entertainment more than a tilt at victory.
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