Alex Hales' 116: Breaking Down England Opener's Record-Breaking Knock at WT20

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Alex Hales' 116: Breaking Down England Opener's Record-Breaking Knock at WT20
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Alex Hales' blistering hundred against Sri Lanka on Thursday was essentially the blueprint for an opener's Twenty20 innings.

Amid a seemingly desperate situation for England, the brutal right-hander emerged from the general malaise shown by his teammates to thunderously hammer an unforgettable and unbeaten 116 from just 63 deliveries. 

Of course, Hales' innings significantly alters England's outlook for the remainder of this ICC World Twenty20. But it also represents more than that.

Suddenly, a beleaguered team, an outfit almost on the verge of self-destruction in the hours prior, has something to smile about. The significance of that mere fact shouldn't be underestimated. 

Hales' knock, which is broken down here into three distinct phases, could potentially represent a turning point for his nation's cricketing fortunes.

 

Opening Phase: Balls 1-21

The opening overs of Hales' innings were—while vastly less spectacular—perhaps the most crucial moments of his stunning performance against Sri Lanka.

After Nuwan Kulasekara had claimed both Michael Lumb and Moeen Ali in the first over, it would have been understandable had Hales frenetically attempted to thrash England out of trouble with unrestrained and reckless aggression.

Instead, the 25-year-old acknowledged that the percentages had to be played. The only realistic way for England to stay in the hunt was to push Sri Lanka for as long as possible. 

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Combining with Eoin Morgan, Hales showed an obvious determination to haul his side away from the potential disaster of a rapid implosion. Reining in his instinct to clear the fence, the opener traditionally stroked his way to a fluid start, playing only orthodox drives and glances to quell the threat posed by Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga.

The approach, which yielded five boundaries and 27 runs in his opening 21 balls faced, steadied his team and allowed he and Morgan to halt the surging momentum of the favored Sri Lankans.

 

Middle Phase: Balls 22-42

Throughout the duration of his T20 career, Hales has been known exclusively for his colossal hitting. Yet, during the middle part of his innings against Sri Lanka, the right-hander was content to play a supporting role.

Against the the usually superb limited-overs spin of Sachithra Senanayake and Ajantha Mendis, Hales smartly turned the strike and pushed for singles, recognising Morgan's greater proficiency against the slower bowlers.

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

With the left-hander using an impressive array of sweeps and inventive strokes to accumulate the required boundaries, Hales pushed 12 singles and a pair of twos from his next 21 deliveries to maintain England's faint hopes of victory.

It was in the 13th over of the innings when the feel of the match really began to change. A trio of fours for Hales off the bowling of Thisara Perera brought up the Englishman's fifty and the 100-run partnership between him and the impressive Morgan. 

However, it was the third of those boundaries that proved most telling. After being superb with the bat during Sri Lanka's innings, Mahela Jayawardene put down a straightforward catch from the final ball of Perera's over, watching the ball trickle into the boundary rope in what was the decisive moment of the match.

 

Final Phase: Balls 43-63

Of course, it was the finale of Hales' innings that was truly spectacular. After being put down by Jayawardene, there was an ever-increasing sense that the imposing Hales was capable of dragging England to the most unlikely of victories.

Somewhat surprisingly, the right-hander's match-turning assault came against the mystery spin of Mendis. When the prolific T20 tweaker returned to the attack in the 15th over, England's opener made his intent profoundly clear.

Knowing that the brilliant Malinga still had two overs to bowl, Hales launched a savage attack on Mendis, clubbing three sixes and a four from the spinner's fourth over to complete a commanding 25-run over.

Despite the loss of Morgan and Jos Buttler to Kulasekara in the 17th over, the thunderous hitting from Hales continued as he smashed two sixes from the penultimate over to leave the chasing side with just seven to get from the final six deliveries of the match. 

Not content with scraping his side over the line, Hales left his best for last, crunching the second ball of Angelo Mathews' final over into the stands with a towering 95-metre hit over mid-wicket.

In completing the first T20I century for England, the 25-year-old not only restored his side's hopes in this tournament but also managed to wipe away months of misery for his team in the space of just 63 balls.

The term "Halestorm" had already been coined for the opener. Against Sri Lanka on Thursday, he gave it a whole new meaning.

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