He startled Sri Lankans as England won by six wickets with four balls to spare. Given that England were chasing 190, beyond any total they have chased successfully before in Twenty20, and that they were 0-2 after the first over.
Hales paced his inningswell. As the spinners came on Hales reined himself in a little and allowed Eoin Morgan, with whom he added 152, to take the initiative with the old reverse sweeps and flicks over long-on and through the covers back in evidence.
He turned his attention to Ajantha Mendis.
Hales took 24 of the 25 runs scored from it, three sixes over midwicket and a silky cover drive. From there England were suddenly, unbelievably favourites.
Morgan, close to his best, eventually holed out to long-on for 57; Jos Buttler did not last but Ravi Bopara did and could admire Hales delivering the final blows at close quarters. In fact, Bopara hit two crucial boundaries against the dangerous Lasith Malinga just as he had explained the day before. "The best way is to deflect him and that's what I'm going to do", he said. And so he did, to third man.
The first innings of the match was a catalogue of errors, almost exclusively by Englishmen, even though it all began encouragingly.
There was an on-field consultation between Aleem Dar and Rod Tucker, which inevitably ended with a request for clarification from the third umpire, Steve Davis.
Fortunately Stuart Broad was in sufficiently good humour afterwards not to refer to "distinctly average decision-making". England were spirited enough in the field, but incompetent. The catches started going down and Jayawardene could not believe his luck.
This was just the start of England's woes in the field. Soon Tillakaratne Dilshan, on 21, was dropped at square leg by Tim Bresnan; Jayawardene on 44 ought to have been run out but Buttler missed the stumps; a disgusted Bresnan later dropped Jayawardene again on 80 and, for good measure,
Bopara spilled a regulation boundary catch in the final over. They cannot be so clumsy in the shower.