PERTH, Australia (AP) — Alex Hales appeared to seal his place in England’s team for cricket’s T20 World Cup after starring in a tense eight-run victory over Australia in Perth on Sunday.
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 T20 warmups against the Australians.
Hales underpinned England’s 208-6 with 84 off 51 balls, sharing a 132-run stand in 11.2 overs with Buttler (68 off 32 balls).
Australia needed to achieve a record T20 run chase by any team against the English and was on course to do it, getting to 158-3 midway through the 15th over only for Marcus Stoinis (35) and Tim David (0) to fall in the space of four balls from Mark Wood.
Then Wood, off the final ball of his allocated four overs, snagged David Warner for a team-high 73 as the opener holed out to Hales in the deep.
The match was in the balance but England took three wickets in the last eight balls of the chase to get home in Perth, with Australia finishing on 200-9.
After the match, 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 returns to Perth in two weeks for its 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.”
Ben Stokes, who scored 9, returned to England’s T20 team for the first time since July 2021 while Buttler played for the first time since injuring his calf in August.
Buttler 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 Wood as he ran in toward attempting a return catch. England winning took the sting out of any controversy.
“I was looking at the ball the whole time so I wasn’t sure what happened,” Buttler said. “They (the umpires) asked if I wanted to appeal, but I thought we are here for a long time in Australia so it would be a risky one to go for so early in the trip.”
Wood had 3-34 and Sam Curran 2-35 as England’s fast bowlers performed well down in the final overs.
“It was a great game of cricket and we are delighted to get over the line,” said Buttler. “Australia played really well, put us under pressure. We were favorites for large parts of the chase. We needed to take wickets and that’s what we did.”
Steve Smith was among six big names missing the match for Australia. The home side also rested Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Glenn Maxwell.
Australia captain Aaron Finch gave credit to England’s openers.
“Against great players like Jos Buttler and Alex Hales, sometimes there isn’t much you could do,” Finch said. “When they get in front of the game, they can be hard to stop. They are great players for a reason.
“We got ourselves into a position to win the game but couldn’t quite finish it off.”
The teams will play again in Canberra on Wednesday and Friday.
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