World T20 Scores: Hales and Morgan Combine to Power England to Outstanding Win over Sri Lanka
By Deepak Vikraman | March 28, 2014 4:26 AM EST
Where do you go from 0/2 while chasing a mammoth target of 190 against one of the best bowling sides in the world? How about a sparkling back-to-the-walls 152-run partnership, the fourth highest ever in T20Is, and a stunner of a hundred from England's T20 specialist Alex Hales.
With that deep dark hole seemingly sucking them in, after an abysmal day in the field allowed Mahela Jayawardene (89) and Sri Lanka to post a daunting 189 for four in 20 overs, England found some magical willow-wielding powers courtesy Hales (116 n.o., 64b, 11x4, 6x6) and Eoin Morgan (57) to roll their way to the target, finishing on 190 for four in 19.2 overs, for a comprehensive six-wicket victory against the previously unbeaten Lankans.
The win was the best thing that could have happened to Group 1, blowing the section wide open, with any of the four teams - Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand and South Africa - now capable of making the semifinals.
Disastrous is the only way to term England's start in the chase, with Michael Lumb and Moeen Ali falling off successive deliveries in the first over. Nuwan Kulasekara is the only pace bowler in the top ten of the T20 bowlers' rankings and the right-armer showed exactly why.
After bowling four dot deliveries, Kulasekara forced Lumb to force the pace and in the process castled the opener, with Ali then edging one first ball to Sachitra Senanayake in the slips off a peach of an outswinger.
However, England refused to go away, even when it would have been easier to lie down and play dead. Hales began his innings with a couple of nice boundaries, and never looked back, while Morgan (57, 38b, 7x4, 2x6) was at his absolute best, more like the player he was when he first came into the England fold - unfurling the reverse sweeps, conventional sweeps, cover drives and straight hits in some style.
Bowling was supposed to be Sri Lanka's strong suit, but the two England batsmen made them look ordinary with some delightful strokeplay, while the dew came into play, just like it did for the England bowlers in the first innings.
England were always chasing the game, though, needing 118 runs from the final ten overs, with that equation, courtesy some astute hitting, brought down to 73 off the last six overs.
With eight wickets in hand, it was tonk every ball for a six time and Hales produced three off Ajantha Mendis (4-0-52-0) to take 25 runs from the 15th over and suddenly make England favourites, at 48 from the last 30 deliveries.
Malinga was brought on with skipper Dinesh Chandimal desperate for a wicket, but nine runs were taken by England, with Hales hitting another exquisite boundary, leaving them needing 39 from the final four overs.
Kulasekara brought Sri Lanka right back in the game in the next over, however, picking up Eoin Morgan, who holed out to Angelo Mathews at long-on, putting the onus on Jos Buttler to give Hales company until the end. Kulasekara (four for 32), though, was a one-man wrecking crew, taking his fourth wicket of the innings, sending Buttler back to the pavilion.
Only five runs were conceded as well, meaning England needed 34 from the final three overs. Two glides off the face of Ravi Bopara's (11, 6b, 2x4) bat to the third man boundary, and 11 runs were taken off Malinga's (4-0-31-0) last over, keeping the team in orange/red on pace.
Shoulders out, bat flowing smoother through, Hales brought up his as-good-as-it-gets hundred with a six over cover, before smashing the ball into oblivion off Kulasekara's next delivery to put England on the brink of their highest ever run chase in T20Is.
With seven runs needed from the final over, bowled by Mathews, Hales stood tall, swung that bat towards the leg side, and the ball flew into orbit to give England an emphatic victory.
The first innings was about England treating the cricket ball like a bar of soap, allowing Sri Lanka, particularly Mahela Jayawardene, one life after another, with the right-hander gleefully accepting the gifts and punishing the bowling side with aplomb.
It wasn't a great start for Sri Lanka, with Kusal Perera given out caught down the leg side off Jade Dernbach in the eighth ball of the innings, a little unluckily perhaps. Sri Lanka should have been four for two after the very next ball, with Jayawardene getting a leading edge to cover which was wonderfully caught by Lumb diving forward. However, the umpires went up to the third umpire to see if the catch was taken cleanly, and even though the replays suggested the catch was true, Steve Davis strangely decided to give it not out.
How England, already aggrieved about umpiring decisions from the first game against New Zealand would pay for that decision.
But, England could have moved on from that decision had Dernbach, the man who was denied a wicket, hung on to a simple catch in the fifth over, with Jayawardene spooning one straight to the bowler at mid-on off Tim Bresnan, who himself had a nightmare day on the field, shelling a couple of easy catches later on.
Jayawardene would be dropped again later on, while a run out opportunity would also go begging, and the right-hander, knowing this was his day, took full advantage, and then some. It took the classy player a few deliveries to find his ridiculously smooth rhythm, but once he did it was lights out for the England bowlers.
There is no better player in world cricket to elegantly carve the bowlers apart than Jayawardene (89, 51b, 1x4, 3x6), and it was yet another T20 masterclass from the evergreen Sri Lanka batsman.
At the other end, Tillakaratne Dilshan was far from his best, but fighting his way through towards finding some form. The fact that the opener stayed at the crease, also allowed Jayawardene to keep picking off the boundaries at will with no pressure of wickets falling, and the second wicket partnership of 145 from 15.2 overs, of which Dilshan scored just 50, with Jayawardene making 89, hit England hard.
The alliance was finally broken by the impressive Chris Jordan (two for 28), with the fast bowler managing to get through Jayawardene's bat and hit the stumps, as Dilshan (55, 47b, 4x4, 2x6) fell soon after completing his half-century.
Thisara Perera (23, 12b, 2x4, 1x6) and Angelo Mathews (11, 5b, 1x6), though, provided the final assault to take Sri Lanka to the huge total.
However, Sri Lanka did not account for Hales and Morgan's prowess with the bat as England scampered home.
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