Alex Hales and captain Jos Buttler shone in a record unbroken opening partnership as a ruthless England humiliated India by 10 wickets at Adelaide Oval on Thursday to storm into the Twenty20 World Cup final.
England, who won the 50-over World Cup on home soil in 2019, can now become the first team to hold both global trophies in white-ball cricket when they meet Pakistan in Sunday’s final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
They have rehabilitated opener Hales and skipper Buttler to thank as the pair chased down 169 for victory with four overs to spare, leaving a huge crowd of India supporters stunned.
Hales finished on 86 not out, and Buttler, who was unbeaten on 80, completed the statement win in style, blasting paceman Mohammed Shami over his head for six.
For Hales, it was especially sweet, having missed out on England’s 2019 triumph after a recreational drug scandal.
His exile from the England setup lasted more than three years and he was only called up to the squad after Jonny Bairstow was injured in a freak golf accident.
“This will be right up there for sure,” said Hales, who has played plenty of domestic T20 cricket in Australia with the Big Bash League.
“It’s a huge occasion playing India in the semi-final of a World Cup … Really happy with the way I played.
“It’s a special feeling in a country that I love and I’ve spent a lot of time here, so tonight is one of the best nights of my career.”
The England pair’s 170-run stand was their team’s biggest in the history of the tournament and sets up a mouthwatering duel against Pakistan, 30 years on from the teams’ 50-over World Cup final in 1992 at the MCG which Pakistan won.
“It certainly feels a perfect match against a top quality opposition,” said Buttler.
“We came in very excited and there was a good feel around the group … I thought everyone, from one to 11, stood up today.”
After Buttler won the toss and put India into bat, his bowlers did well to restrict India early but Hardik Pandya (63) and Virat Kohli (50) helped the south Asians recover from a slow start to post 168 for six.
It seemed a defendable total but Buttler and Hales made light work of it as they blasted England to 63 for no loss at the end of the powerplay and then 98 at the halfway mark.
“It’s pretty disappointing how we turned up today,” said India captain Rohit Sharma.
“I thought we still batted pretty well at the back end to get to that score, but we were not good enough with the ball.
“We were not good enough with the ball. It was definitely not a wicket where a team can come and chase it down in 16 overs.
“It’s all about executing your plans. If you can’t execute, you’d find yourself in trouble.”