Alex Hales earns ‘first crack’ at World Cup opening spot with match-winning knock

Captain Jos Buttler praised his opening partner after England beat Australia by eight runs in Perth

David Charlesworth
Monday 10 October 2022 08:39 BST
Alex Hales, pictured, looks set to partner Jos Buttler at the T20 World Cup (K.M. Chaudary/AP)
Alex Hales, pictured, looks set to partner Jos Buttler at the T20 World Cup (K.M. Chaudary/AP) (AP)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Alex Hales has pencilled his name into England’s T20 World Cup line-up as he starred in their tense eight-run victory over Australia in Perth.

With Jos Buttler returning to the side after a calf injury, Hales was preferred to Phil Salt as the England white-ball captain’s opening partner for the first of three T20s against their Ashes rivals.

Hales struggled early on for fluency but gradually gained his footing and underpinned England’s 208 for six with a knock of 84 off 51 balls, sharing a blistering 132-run stand in 11.2 overs with Buttler.

Their efforts went a long way to the tourists’ success as Australia slipped from 158 for three to fall short on 200 for nine, with David Warner’s 73 off 44 balls in vain at the Optus Stadium.

And Buttler confirmed Hales, who has recently returned to the fold after more than three years in the international wilderness following a recreational drugs test failure, is set to open again when England return to this venue in a fortnight for their World Cup opener against Afghanistan.

“Things change quickly in sport but he’s got the first crack at it, at the minute,” said Buttler, who revealed Hales was selected because of his pedigree in Australia’s Big Bash League.

“It was a really tough call, we spent a lot of time debating it and thinking about it, and it was only really Alex’s record in Australia that got him ahead.

“He’s settled back in really well and he played fantastically well here. He’s a really destructive player, he accesses all areas of the ground and he’s intimidating to bowl at so it was great to watch at the other end.”

Buttler, who himself sparkled with 68 off 32 balls, declined to appeal for an apparent obstruction in the field as an entertaining high-scoring contest neared its conclusion.

Confusion reigned as Matthew Wade top-edged into his helmet before appearing to block off Mark Wood as he ran towards attempting a return catch, but England winning took the sting out of any controversy.

“I was just looking at the ball,” said Buttler. “It’s quite hard, I don’t know what I’m appealing for really, I could maybe have asked some of the other boys to see if they had a better view.

“I didn’t really see what happened. We’ve only just got to Australia so I thought just carry on in the game.”

Marcus Stoinis suggested the blow to the head might have momentarily confused Wade.

“It’s chaos when you’re hit on the head and you’re running around and you don’t know where the ball is – it’s chaos,” he said.

Warner anchored Australia’s pursuit while Stoinis’ 15-ball cameo yielded 35 and seemed to tip the balance in the home side’s favour, but Wood prised out both batters to finish with three for 34.

Australia – without Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith – needed 16 from the last over but Wade was caught at mid-on off Sam Curran, who also bowled Nathan Ellis to help England just about get over the line.

Australia are likely to strengthen their XI in next week’s double-header in Canberra but Buttler welcomes the challenge.

“It was a great game of cricket, I really enjoyed it,” added Buttler. “Australia seemed to have it under control and we needed to find ways to take wickets but we did that and showed great character.

“We can take some really good confidence from that. Anytime you play Australia they’re challenging games.

“They’ve left a few guys behind, which is quite a smart decision with the schedule they’ve had and the World Cup just around the corner. This was a great game of cricket and I expect two more.”

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