England hold on for narrow win

England 172 for 6 (Hales 52, Wright 35, Morgan 30, Starc 2-32, Hogg 2-39) beat Australia 163 for 6 (M Hussey 71, Watson 37, Finn 2-26) by nine runs

England's recent five-match ODI series against Australia was generally condemned as so inconsequential that it is quite possible to argue that this warm-up match between the Ashes rivals ahead of World Twenty20 had considerably more significance. It fell England's way, by nine runs, an edgy win only for as long as Mike Hussey remained at the crease for Australia.

Victory gave England, the defending champions, immediate impetus and left Australia, whose T20 ranking briefly fell below Ireland's earlier this month, still searching for a solution.

England's top six did not include a single player who could be regarded as a regular in the Test side - Kevin Pietersen, who in different circumstances might have claimed that, is only in Sri Lanka for a commentary stint for ESPN Star Sports- but they skipped to 172 for 6 in their 20 overs with Alex Hales (52 off 38) and Luke Wright (35 off 29) both prominent.

Hales, the chief beneficiary of Pietersen's absence, is one of several young England players without much of a grounding on the subcontinent but his half-century took England to 110 for 3 with 34 balls left before becoming one of two victims for Brad Hogg, at 41 the oldest player in the tournament.

He might have been run out on three, had David Warner hit direct from point and also offered two half-chances to the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, an edge off Dan Christian, and a tough stumping off Brad Hogg on 34.

Shane Watson, Australia's allrounder, saw enough in Hales' performance to believe that England have a chance to mask Pietersen's absence without too much damage. "Kevin Pietersen is an amazingly talented batsman," he said. "In the last Twenty20 World Cup, he was one of the big reasons why England won it.

"But England have a number of very exciting young guys coming in. Hales hit the ball very nicely, and is obviously going to be a big player for England at the top of the order, so it won't have too much of a dent in the England side, because they'll be able to make up for it pretty well."

That Australia got so close owed much to Hussey, who almost pulled off a game-changing over when he struck Danny Briggs, the Hampshire left-arm spinner on his first senior tour, for 6-6-6-4 off successive balls after Briggs' first three overs had cost only 15. But Broad returned to have Hussey (71 off 51) lbw to leave Australia 32 short with 19 balls remaining and their challenge petered out.

Broad's intervention was something of a personal relief as his first over at Nondescripts CC in Colombo had included four wides. Shane Watson (37 off 26), Australia's other main batting success, was bowled as he swept at Graeme Swann.

Wright's success at No. 3, to follow a fine domestic season for Sussex in limited-overs cricket, continued a resurgence that began in Australia's Big Bash at the turn of the year. He is now over fears that a knee tendon injury might have put an end to his career.

"There are other guys around the counties I know have been struggling heavily with that sort of injury and who have had similar treatment to me - and it's just not worked," he said. "My game is normally based on energy, running around, buzzing around. Suddenly for the first time, I couldn't really do that and I felt like an old man - it probably threatened everything I play for. But I went off to Sweden for an operation, and luckily it's been fine since then."