CHESTER-LE-STREET, England (AP) — England leveled the Twenty20 series against Australia with a 27-run win in their second and final game on Saturday.
Alex Hales hit 94 runs from 61 balls but missed the chance to become the first England batsman to score an international Twenty20 century. Hales, who combined in a 111-run partnership with Michael Lumb (43), was denied his moment of glory when he holed out in the deep in the penultimate over from James Faulkner.
It was, however, still a match-defining performance as England, which lost the toss, reached 195-5. Jade Dernbach then took three for 23 as Australia fell short, despite 53 from David Warner. "After losing the toss the guys adapted to the conditions really well," England captain Stuart Broad told British broadcaster Sky Sports. "To get 60 off the first six without losing a wicket was fantastic ... and it was great to keep wickets in hand."
England reached 195 for the third successive completed match but the hosts' bowlers knew they still faced a task after Australia's 248 for six in Southampton on Thursday earned them a 39-run win. Aaron Finch's world-record 156 was the backbone of that total but he managed just five for Australia on Saturday before miscuing Broad to mid-wicket.
A direct hit from England's Eoin Morgan then caught Shane Watson short before Warner attempted to belt Australia out of early trouble. The left-hander hit straight sixes in consecutive overs from Steven Finn, Dernbach and Danny Briggs and put on a quickfire 67 with Shaun Marsh.
Marsh swept Joe Root for six, but just as Australia nudged closer to England's scoring rate he was bowled trying to repeat the dose. Warner brought up his 10th Twenty20 half-century from 38 balls, pushing Root for a single.
When Warner was caught by Hales in the deep, Australia required 12 an over to win. The task swamped Australia's remaining batsmen despite late hitting from Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Coulter-Nile. The man of the match, though, was Hales after England was put in to bat.
Hales got off the mark with back-to-back fours before lofting Faulkner for a straight six as 61 was taken from the powerplay without loss. Australia turned to the slow bowling of Fawad Ahmed in the eighth over and while that eased the rate only slightly, Hales milked the leg-spinner for a couple of runs to bring up his sixth Twenty20 half-century from 34 balls.
Soon Ahmed, who after fleeing Pakistan three years ago was only granted his Australian citizenship in June, was celebrating claiming his first international wicket. After Lumb top-edged a sweep high into the air, which wicketkeeper Matt Wade held on to, Ahmed celebrated with a kiss to the heavens.
England kept operating at around 10 an over though as Maxwell's second over went for 18, and Luke Wright followed a six with a pair of fours. Wright contributed 30 from 17 balls before Johnson athletically caught him above his head at mid-off as the stage looked set for Hales to bring up three figures.
But Hales picked out Warner on the long off rope to leave him shy of a century. "I'm disappointed not to get there having got to 94," Hales said. "It was a fantastic team effort and set the tone early with the bat on what was a fantastic wicket.
"Lumby helped me out; he was brilliant at the start. We formed a good partnership."