England book T20 World Cup final clash with Pakistan after Alex Hales and Jos Buttler cruise past India

England book T20 World Cup final clash with Pakistan after Alex Hales and Jos Buttler cruise past India

England are one win from history after Alex Hales and Jos Buttler dismantled India by ten wickets to reach Sunday’s T20 World Cup final.

In the biggest partnership in tournament history, Hales (86 off 47), recalled after three years in exile on the eve of the competition, was sensational as the early aggressor, before Buttler (80 off 49) accelerated to put the game to bed, finishing the job with a six down the ground to see England home with 24 balls to spare.

No men’s team has ever held the T20 and 50-over world titles at the same time but that is the prize now on offer for Buttler and his side at the MCG, where Pakistan lie in wait.

Hardik Pandya had lifted India to what looked like a competitive total of 168 for six with a devastating display of hitting at the death, the all-rounder striking 63 off just 33 balls as 88 runs came from the final seven overs.

Just as Pakistan’s openers had done to New Zealand in yesterday’s first semi-final, however, Buttler and Hales soon had India regretting not stepping on the gas earlier.

The pair raced to 63-0 by the end of the powerplay and where England had seen fast starts fizzle out earlier in the tournament, here the charge continued right to the line.

In the field, India looked almost as ragged as they did lost. At one point, Pandya and Virat Kohli tried to whip up a majority Indian crowd at the Adelaide Oval, then quickly saw them silenced as Buttler creamed to the fence. Mohammed Shami, cutting off a trademark Buttler scoop, decided on a needless relay and threw miles over the head of the assisting fielder, allowing the batters to scamper a rare all-run four.

Jos Buttler and Alex Hales produced the biggest partnership in the history of the T20 World Cup (AP)
Jos Buttler and Alex Hales produced the biggest partnership in the history of the T20 World Cup (AP)

Hales, flicking over the short square-leg boundary at will, brought up the century partnership one ball past the midway stage with the sixth of his seven sixes.

Buttler had been content to let his partner take the initiative but cut loose with Melbourne in sight and even when making a rare error, skying miles into the air off the top-edge, saw Suryakumar Yadav not only put the catch down but deflect it to the rope.

Earlier, England had been forced into their first personnel changes of the tournament, their injury fears confirmed at the toss as both Dawid Malan and Mark Wood were ruled out, handing a World Cup debut to Phil Salt and a recall to Chris Jordan, who marked his return with three wickets.

Just as eye-catching was Buttler’s decision to bowl first on a used wicket, England having seemingly lost their knack for chasing in recent times.

For most of the first two-thirds of the innings, England were on top. Chris Woakes got KL Rahul early with a bit of extra bounce before opening partner Rohit Sharma followed without quite getting going, caught on the run by Sam Curran off Jordan’s bowling for 27.

Hardik Pandya led India’s efforts but his 63 from 33 deliveries proved in vain (AP)
Hardik Pandya led India’s efforts but his 63 from 33 deliveries proved in vain (AP)

That wicket briefly came at the cost of pairing India’s in-form headline duo, Virat Kohli joined by Suryakumar Yadav (14), but after the latter had taken ten off two Ben Stokes deliveries, Adil Rashid struck with what felt like a crucial wicket. Rashid, quiet early in the tournament, had come alive with a player of the match display against Sri Lanka and was superb again here, taking 1-20 as well as a quite brilliant diving catch to remove Kohli late on.

By then, Kohli had scored his fourth half-century in six innings, becoming the first man to reach 4,000 T20i runs in the process, but was soon overshadowed by Pandya, whose knock included nine boundaries, five of them maximums. The count would have been ten had he not trod on his own stumps while clipping the final ball of the innings to the leg-side fence.

At that point, you sensed a close chase brewing and wondered whether those four missing runs could prove vital. Emphatically, they did not.