Eoin Morgan’s men needed to restate their white-ball credentials after their chastening defeat three days ago – and they did so effectively to set up a T20 decider in Bristol on Sunday.
Hales (58 not out) hit a straight six off the first ball of the previously miserly Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s final over as England chased down 148 for five with two balls to spare.
In front of another sell-out crowd, dominated by Indian support, there was little to cheer the majority as England got the job done, watched by their returning hero in the dug-out – Ben Stokes taking in some Welsh reconnaissance before a possible return from injury over the weekend.
England were exemplary with the ball, meticulous with their run-saving yorkers, and restricted India throughout after Morgan won the toss and Jake Ball supplied the early breakthrough in his first over on debut in this format.
He was the only bowler to eventually suffer as his final over of the innings gave up 22 runs – including a wide and a no-ball which went through to the boundary for five.
Alex Hales played a very low percentage of attacking shots today, his lowest ever in a T20I innings of 25 or more & yet managed a above-average scoring-rate of 8.48 RPO. Here's where this combination stands in his career.#ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/lq2m5Hazs4— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) July 6, 2018
Before then, England did precious little wrong – with their Yorkshire contingent of David Willey, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid to the fore.
Ball began the fine collective effort when he had Rohit Sharma mistiming an attempted big hit into the leg-side off a short ball which steepled into the gloves of Jos Buttler.
Shikhar Dhawan then dropped his bat as he tried to ground it for a single and was short of his ground as Morgan took off the bails at the non-striker’s end.
Three balls later, it was 22 for three when Old Trafford centurion KL Rahul made room to try to carve Plunkett back over his head but was bowled off-stump.
Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina sought to gather some momentum in a stand of 57 in under eight overs – but just when they hinted at telling progress, Rashid had the left-hander stumped charging a googly.
Kohli fell three short of his 50, caught by a juggling and diving Joe Root on the fine-leg boundary off Willey – and although MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya provided a strong finish, India still looked well short of par.
It seemed all England must do was avoid early wickets and/or any of the mayhem inflicted by Kuldeep Yadav at Old Trafford.
INDIA STRIKE EARLY
They stumbled at the first hurdle, but recovered their composure just in time. Jason Roy took a disdainful 14 runs off Umesh Yadav’s first over, only to go to the first ball of his second – bowled middle-stump by one that jagged in off the seam.
Buttler was soon gone too, escaping one chance off Umesh to Kohli at mid-off only to give the India captain a second in the same position three balls later – duly held.
The out-of-sorts Root was then let down by his go-to sweep shot, missing a googly and losing his off-bail in Yuzvendra Chahal’s first over.
Morgan and Hales had a tricky time against India’s two wrist-spinners but came through the examination in an important stand of 48.
The captain tried to hook one over the rope off Pandya, only to be well caught by an athletic Dhawan at long-leg.
But Jonny Bairstow chipped in with some handy muscle, and Hales saw the task through with three fours and three sixes in a 39-ball half-century as England’s Manchester nemesis Kuldeep finished wicketless this time.
Former England captain Alastair Cook joins a team of Test hopefuls and regulars in the Lions XI to take on India A at Worcester this month. Six of the line-up chosen for the four-day match starting on July 16 already have Test caps.
They include seamer Chris Woakes who, as previously announced by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday lunchtime, will play the match as he bids to prove his fitness after a knee injury in time for the five-match series against India which starts on August 1.
There is also a clutch of intriguing bat-offs and bowl-offs in prospect at New Road as openers Rory Burns and Nick Gubbins have an opportunity to press Test claims – while the middle order houses England incumbent Dawid Malan and rising star Ollie Pope.
Among the bowlers, Somerset spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach will both be out to impress.
All-rounder Sam Curran, who made his Test debut at Headingley last month, is included too – although he may yet have to miss the match if England instead need him for their third and final one-day international against India back in Leeds on July 17. The Lions will wait until the morning of the match to announce their captain.
England Lions XI (v India A at Worcester, starting July 16)
Alastair Cook, Rory Burns, Nick Gubbins, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope (wk), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Matt Fisher, Jack Leach, Jamie Porter
Stokes remains on course to play if needed on Sunday, despite suffering a bruised foot in practice for his comeback match with Durham on Thursday evening.
The all-rounder hit an unbeaten 90 for his county in their opening Vitality Blast match against Yorkshire at Headingley, which ended in defeat.
But a brief England and Wales Cricket Board statement on Friday confirmed he will be in attendance – although not yet available for selection – at the second match of three against India in Cardiff. It read: “Ben Stokes will be at the ground tonight. (There are) no issues with injuries, and he is expected to be available for selection on Sunday.”