Unbeaten Hales hammers England level with one to go

England's Alex Hales hits out to steer his side to victory over India in Cardiff last night (Picture: Mark Kerton/PA Wire).
England's Alex Hales hits out to steer his side to victory over India in Cardiff last night (Picture: Mark Kerton/PA Wire).
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Alex Hales held his nerve with an unbeaten half-century to ensure England produced a series-levelling five-wicket win over India in Cardiff.

Eoin Morgan’s men needed to restate their white-ball credentials after their chastening defeat three days earlier and they did so effectively to set up a Vitality IT20 decider in Bristol tomorrow.

Hales (58no) hit a straight six off the first ball of the previously miserly Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s final over as England chased down 148-5 with two balls to spare.

In front of another sell-out crowd, dominated by Indian support, there was little to cheer the majority as England got the job done, watched by their returning hero in the dug-out, Ben Stokes taking in some Welsh reconnaissance before a possible return from injury over the weekend.

England were exemplary with the ball, meticulous with their run-saving yorkers, and restricted India throughout after Morgan won the toss and Jake Ball supplied the early breakthrough in his first over on debut in this format.

He was the only bowler to eventually suffer as his final over of the innings gave up 22 runs, including a wide and a no-ball that went through to the boundary for five.

Before then England did precious little wrong with their Yorkshire contingent of David Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid to the fore.

Ball began the fine collective effort when he had Rohit Sharma mistiming an attempted big hit into the leg-side off a short ball that steepled into the gloves of Jos Buttler.

Shikhar Dhawan then dropped his bat as he tried to ground it for a single and was short of his ground as Morgan took off the bails at the non-striker’s end.

Three balls later it was 22-3 when Old Trafford centurion KL Rahul made room to try to carve Plunkett back over his head, but was bowled off-stump.

Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina sought to gather some momentum in a stand of 57 in under eight overs, but just when they hinted at telling progress Rashid had the left-hander stumped charging a googly.

Kohli fell three short of his 50, caught by a juggling and diving Joe Root on the fine-leg boundary off Willey, and although MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya provided a strong finish, India still looked well short of par.

It seemed all England must do was avoid early wickets and/or any of the mayhem inflicted by Kuldeep Yadav at Old Trafford.

They stumbled at the first hurdle, but recovered their composure just in time.

Jason Roy took a disdainful 14 off Umesh Yadav’s first over, only to go to the first ball of his second, bowled middle-stump by one that jagged in off the seam.

Buttler was soon gone too, escaping one chance off Umesh to Kohli at mid-off only to give the India captain a second in the same position three balls later.

Out-of-sorts Root was then let down by his go-to sweep shot, missing a googly and losing his off-bail in Yuzvendra Chahal’s first over.

Morgan and Hales had a tricky time against India’s two wrist-spinners, but came through the examination in an important stand of 48.

The captain tried to hook one over the rope off Pandya, only to be well caught by an athletic Dhawan at long-leg.

But Jonny Bairstow chipped in with some handy muscle, and Hales saw the task through with three fours and three sixes in a 39-ball half-century as England’s Manchester nemesis Kuldeep finished wicketless this time.

Hales commented: “A much-needed win. Important game and nice to take the team through to the win.

“This time I played more on the backfoot. The other day was just a bad day at the office.”

India captain Kohli said: “Credit to England with the way they started with the ball. They put pressure on us.”