Ace Hales leads England to victory
5:48pm Thursday 27th March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Alex Hales hit a stunning century to lead England to a memorable victory over Sri Lanka and reignite the side's World Twenty20 campaign.
Hales produced a staggering innings - unbeaten on 116 from 64 balls - and finished the game in unforgettable fashion as he heaved Angelo Mathews for an enormous six to seal a six-wicket victory with four balls to spare.
It was England's first-ever T20 hundred and Hales, who struck six sixes and 11 fours to reel in a target of 190, celebrated by thrusting both arms into the air and waving his bat aloft.
Having been dismissed twice in the nineties already, it was a case of finishing old business for the Nottinghamshire opener.
Eoin Morgan also deserved a healthy share of the plaudits, having hit 57 in 38 balls and shared a stand of 152 with Hales, the fourth highest partnership of all time in the format.
It was a magical, but unlikely, finale in Chittagong with England apparently set for another hard luck story after a troubled first innings.
Mahela Jayawardene made 89 to underpin Sri Lanka's 189 for four, having led a charmed life from ball one.
He was controversially given not out first ball when Michael Lumb appeared to take a clean catch off Jade Dernbach.
England then contributed to their own woes, dropping him twice and botching a run-out chance, in a ragged fielding display.
Heads were down but, in the shortest format, it takes just one wonder knock to turn things on their head and Hales provided it.
England nearly enjoyed the dream start, Dernbach strangling Kusal Perera down the leg-side and then seemingly adding Jayawardene's scalp.
Lumb threw himself towards the low chance and joined his team-mates in celebration after gathering a tricky catch.
But Jayawardene stood his ground and, when the on-field umpires sent the decision upstairs, there was a grim inevitability about Steve Davis' 'not out' verdict.
Had he chosen differently Sri Lanka would have been four for two. Instead, 145 more runs came before the second wicket.
Jayawardene hit three of his next six balls for four after the verdict and appeared to improve every time England spared him in the field.
Dernbach and Tim Bresnan both dropped him, on 19 and 80, failing to come to terms with the greasy ball.
In between, on 43, Jayawardene took on Bresnan's arm and would have been run out had Jos Buttler taken the stumps at the first attempt.
Jayawardene finished with 11 fours and three sixes to his name, finally departing when Chris Jordan took the direct route and parted his stumps.
Tillakaratne Dilshan made 55 in a supporting brief before he was dismissed by Dernbach.
Jordan removed Kumar Sangakkara for a golden duck but Thisara Perera (23no) and Mathews (11no) added brisk late runs and Ravi Bopara added to the drop-count in the final over.
If there was any doubt about which side carried the momentum it was answered inside the first over of the reply.
England ended it two down without a run, Nuwan Kulasekara bowling Lumb on the charge then seeing off Moeen Ali for a golden duck.
Hales reeled off four boundaries in nine balls to get the scoreboard moving but the introduction of yorker king Lasith Malinga slowed the pace, with just 11 runs off his initial two-over burst.
At the end of the powerplay the score was a modest 37 for two, though the withdrawal of Malinga and a costly 10th over from Mathews - who was thrashed by Morgan for the first six of the innings - took England to 72 at the mid-point.
Morgan lifted Ajantha Mendis into the stands for a second maximum as his mystery spin failed to bamboozle the third-wicket pair.
Both men reach their half-centuries with fours, Hales in 38 balls and Morgan taking six fewer.
Hales was then dropped on 55, fittingly by Jayawardene, who allowed a chance to slip through his fingers and into the ropes.
The 15th over was huge for England, Mendis flayed for 25 as Hales flexed his muscles with three mighty sixes in four deliveries.
Suddenly the line hovered into view.
But Kulasekara returned with another crucial double strike as Morgan, then Buttler, were caught taking the aerial option.
There was no Malinga magic to come, Bopara diverting successive fours as his final over went for 11.
England still required 23 off the last 12 balls and Hales took a chunk out of that with two almighty sixes off Kulasekara.
The first brought up a brilliant hundred and it was apt that he should save the best of the lot for the winning six.