NOTTINGHAM, England - Alex Hales showed England could cope at Twenty20 level without Kevin Pietersen as his superb 99 saw them to a seven-wicket win over the West Indies at Trent Bridge here on Sunday.
World Twenty20 champions England, set a challenging 173 to win, finished on 173 for three with two balls to spare in their first match at this level since Pietersen retired from all limited overs internationals.
Hales’s score was the highest by an England batsman in a Twenty20 international, surpassing Eoin Morgan’s 85 not out against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2009.
The 23-year-old Hayles, taking the opener’s spot vacated by Pietersen, faced 68 balls with four sixes and six fours on his Nottinghamshire home ground as England gave themselves a boost ahead of their World Twenty20 title defence in Sri Lanka in September.
But, in sight of becoming only the seventh batsman to make a Twenty20 international hundred, he was yorked by fast bowler Fidel Edwards.
His partnership of 159 with Ravi Bopara (59) was also the third highest for any wicket in all Twenty20 internationals.
“The way Alex Hayles played was fantastic,” said England Twenty20 captain and Nottinghamshire colleague Stuart Broad, celebrating his 26th birthday on Sunday.
“He was pretty distraught not to make his hundred and 20-odd thousand people in Trent Bridge felt the same.”
This result meant West Indies had failed to win a single international match this tour after England three-match Test and one-day series by 2-0 margins.
England lost opener Craig Kieswetter early in their chase.
But the 6ft 5in Hales, playing only his fifth Twenty20 international, took up the challenge by pulling Ravi Rampaul for six.
He also scored boundaries off the first balls from spinner Sunil Narine and seamer Bravo before lofting Bravo for his third six.
And when Hales forced West Indies captain Darren Sammy square through the offside for four, he surpassed his previous Twenty20 international best of 62 not out against the West Indies at The Oval in September last year.
Hales had a lucky break when a bottom edge off Narine went for four but there was no denying his class when he hooked Edwards for six to surpass Morgan’s mark.
England needed 17 off the last two overs but Bopara struck two successive fours off Rampaul, the first seeing him to a 39-ball fifty.
Bopara too fell with England in sight of victory when he holed out off spinner Marlon Samuels, having been dropped on 44.
Earlier the West Indies, who’s slumped to 57 for three at the halfway stage, recovered to 172 for four on the back of Dwayne Smith’s T20 international best 70 and all-rounder Dwayne Bravo’s 54 not out.
Opener Smith’s 54-ball knock featured five sixes and five fours.
Together with Bravo, he put on 77 for the fourth wicket before adding an unbroken 65 with Pollard (23 not out).
England, who lost the toss, struck an early blow when they removed dangerman Chris Gayle for just two after he top-edged a pull off a Steven Finn bouncer to Jonathan Bairstow, running round from fine leg.
Fast-medium bowler Broad took a wicket with his first ball when, after coming on as first change Lendl Simmons pulled him to Bairstow, running in from deep square leg.
England’s next match is the first of a five-game one-day international series against Australia at Lord’s on Friday, while West Indies face New Zealand in two Twenty20 internationals in Florida on June 30 and July 1.