England held on for a nine-run win over Australia in Colombo on Monday, with their bowlers regrouping after Michael Hussey threatened to pull off a chase of 177 almost single-handedly.
Riding on the efforts of Alex Hales (52 off 38 balls), Luke Wright (35 off 29) and Eoin Morgan (30 off 16), England cruised to 176 for 6 in their 20 overs but were given a jolt by Hussey’s 51-ball 71. Hussey’s innings came after he was promoted to No. 3 at the fall of David Warner for 0 in the first over, and with Shane Watson (37) he added 74 at 9.65 runs an over.
It was an aggressive effort from the 37-year-old, and so nearly delivered Australia a win. Hussey’s assault on the left-arm spin of Danny Briggs was stunning, as he hit 6-6-6-4 off successive balls, but he eventually fell to England captain Stuart Broad with Australia still 32 runs short of their target with 19 balls left. The wickets of George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell in successive overs further stalled Australia, who were unable to get the 22 runs needed off the last six balls.
In other warm-up matches South Africa, West Indies and Ireland registered wins.
Earlier, Hales and Wright featured in a strong partnership for the second wicket after the early loss of Craig Kieswetter. The pair were strong with their hitting, with Hales especially dominant in taking England to 110 for 3 before departing to the 41-year-old Brad Hogg (2 for 39). Morgan and Jonny Bairstow hit crucial runs to ensure the platform was not squandered.
Brief scores: England 176 for 3 in 20 overs (Alex Hales 52, Luke Wright 35, Eoin Morgan 30) beat Australia 163 for 6 in 20 overs (Michael Hussey 71, Shane Watson 37; Steve Finn 2-26)
There was another narrow win in Colombo on Monday, as Dale Steyn helped South Africa defeat New Zealand by nine runs despite a blistering innings from Ross Taylor at the Colts Cricket Ground.
Chasing 187, New Zealand lost three wickets for just 49. Taylor revived the innings with 75 off 42 balls with seven towering sixes and added 94 with Rob Nicol (37 off 36) for the fourth wicket. This partnership put New Zealand in a comfortable position before Steyn toppled the lower order and New Zealand felt short by nine runs with two wickets still in hand.
South Africa’s total had been due to a solid performance by the middle order, in particular de Villiers (54 off 30) and JP Duminy (30 off 24) and a decent opening stand of 47 from Richard Levi and Faf du Plessis.
Brief score: South Africa 186 for 6 in 20 overs (AB de Villiers 54, JP Duminy 30, RE Levi 24, F du Plessis 24) beat New Zealand 177 for 8 in 20 overs (Ross Taylor 75, RJ Nicol 37; Dale Steyn 4-25)
Elsewhere at the Moors Sports Club Ground in Colombo, Ireland held their nerves to pull off a five-run victory over Bangladesh.
After being put in to bat, Ireland posted 164 for 6 riding on Paul Stirling's 71 off 41 balls, with solid support from Ed Joyce (39). For Bangladesh, Mashrafe Mortaza and Shakib Al Hasan claimed two wickets each, while Elias Sunny chipped in with a wicket.
Shakib's bullish 52 off 23 balls kept his team in the hunt, but Bangladesh's middle-order batsmen didn't rise to the occasion. Bangladesh required 10 runs from the last over and lost two wickets by going after the bowling to be left stranded at 159 for 9. Kevin O'Brien was the pick of the bowlers for Ireland with figures of 3 for 24, while Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack claimed two wickets each.
Earlier, Ireland got off to a decent start but lost William Porterfield in the fifth over. After that the 63-run partnership between Stirling and Joyce set the platform for Ireland, before Stirling was bowled by Sunny with the score at 110 for 2.
Brief scores: Ireland 164 for 6 in 20 overs (Paul Stirling 72, Ed Joyce 39; Mashrafe Mortaza 2 for 33) beat Bangladesh 159 for 9 in 20 overs (Shakib Al Hasan 52, Tamim Iqbal 35; Kevin O'Brien 3-24)
At the P Sara Oval, Chris Gayle's 65 off 48 balls helped West Indies to an eight-wicket win against Afghanistan.
Chasing 123, West Indies lost Dwayne Smith with the score at 29 but Gayle almost single-handely delivered victory with 25 balls remaining. Afghanistan, having opted to bat, made 122 for 7 with Asghar Stanizai top-scoring with 53 off 50 balls. Fidel Edwards was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 24 and Sunil Narine took 2 for 23.
Brief scores: West Indies 125 for 2 in 15.5 overs (Chris Gayle 65*) beat Afghanistan 122 for 7 in 20 overs ( Asghar Stanizai 53; Fidel Edwards 3-24, Sunil Narine 2-23)