England v Australia: Alex Hales & Mark Wood star in first T20

Alex Hales hit 12 fours and three sixes in his 51-ball knock
First Twenty20 international, Perth
England 208-6 (20 overs): Hales 84, Butler 68, Ellis 3-20
Australia 200-9 (20 overs): Warner 73, M Marsh 36, Wood 3-34
England won by eight runs

Alex Hales hit 84 off 51 balls as he spearheaded England’s eight-run win over Australia in the first T20 international.

Hales put on 132 in just 11.2 overs with skipper Josh Buttler (68) as the pair contributed most of the runs in England’s 208-6, with Nathan Ellis (3-20) the standout for the hosts.

David Warner took 73 off 44 balls – supported by Mitchell Marsh (36) and Marcus Stoinis (35) – to keep Australia in the contest.

But when Warner was sixth man from Mark Wood (3-34) with three overs remaining, she put too much pressure on Australia’s lower order in Perth and England closed out the game.

Australia needed 16 off the final over but Sam Curran had Matthew Wade (21) caught at mid-wicket and then bowled Ellis for a duck as the left-hander kept his cool to finish with 2-35 .

England’s dominance of the roll came with the caveat that Australia’s attack was stymied by their front-line bowlers, with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa all absent.

Nevertheless, the way Butler’s bowlers held their nerve – and bowled at crucial moments – to defend the set as they looked to build momentum ahead of the World Cup was impressive.

Wood, in particular, stepped up his presence as a key partnership breaker at crucial times in favorable batting conditions, while Curran executed his variations to show he is a viable alternative to Chris Jordan at the death.

Hales seals his position

England have these three T20s against Australia to sort out a few small options, one of which was who would open the batting in the tournament with Buttler.

Phil Salt outscored Hales in England’s seven-match series with Pakistan (167 runs to 130), but Hales’ superior skill and experience on Australian pitches appeared to make him a favorite to partner Buttler.

Having shown moments of dominance in Karachi and Lahore, this was Hales back in the kind of groove that had seen him plunder runs in the Big Bash.

Early in his innings he was content to let Buttler take center stage, before going through the gears himself – a tall and imposing figure at the crease, he used his long range to good effect.

There was an element of luck about a top-end six that removed Marcus Stoinis in the seventh over, but a powerful lofted drive for another maximum down the ground underlined the importance of his reach on long pitches down.

A second T20 century he scored, before putting one in the hands of Tim David at long-on off Kane Richardson. Hales threw his head back in annoyance.

He had done enough, though, and barring injury, now looks set to open with Buttler when England take on Afghanistan in their World Cup opener on October 22.

“This is an opportunity I didn’t think I’d get again,” Hales said after being named man of the match.

“I want to make the most of it and hopefully this is just the beginning. I wasn’t fluent in my first 12 balls, but then it got easier.

“Playing in Australia (in the Big Bash) gives me confidence that I can take it to the next level in England.”

Mixed fortunes for Buttler and Stokes

Buttler averaged 17.16 in six T20 innings for England last summer with a top score of 29, up from a career average of 32.75 before this match.

Having captained Pakistan without a game as he rested a troublesome calf, it was a statement of involvement from the England skipper and a reminder of his unparalleled talent.

Buttler set the tone by hitting four fours from the opener, sent by Cameron Green, showed his skill to twice lift Kane Richardson over the keeper’s head and then his wrists of steel to effortlessly beat Mitchell Swepson for consecutive sixes.

He was out in the 12th over, cutting Nathan Ellis down the middle, but England’s white-ball captain seems to have rediscovered his batting mojo at just the right time.

The fluidity with which Buttler played contrasted with Stokes’ scrappy batting as he was dismissed for nine.

Ben Stokes walks away after being dismissed
Stokes struggled for fluency in his first T20 international since March 2021

The England Test skipper, playing his first T20 international since March 2021, was promoted to bat at three after a blistering start from Buttler and Hales, but he stymied the momentum, a touch that likely threw the last of his step.

Stokes fell off his fourth ball – Kane Richardson spilled a one-handed chance at mid-on after the England player lost a chip down the ground to Daniel Shams.

A sense of how Stokes was trying to force things came in the next ball when he attempted a reverse sweep at a slower ball from Shams and was hit on the helmet.

Stokes managed a four off his eighth delivery before being caught at long-on by Warner, having sidestepped the pitch to Marcus Stoinis.

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