David Willey confessed a tinge of regret despite a day to remember in Canberra, having narrowly failed to flog Nathan Lyon for six sixes in an over.
The Yorkshire all-rounder dominated England’s T20 tri-series warm-up against a Prime Minister’s XI, taking three wickets with his left-arm seam then smashing 79 in just 36 balls as the tourists sprinted to an eight-wicket victory with more than seven overs remaining.
Willey was on the verge of marking the occasion with something special when he launched Australia’s Ashes-winning spinner over the ropes five times in a row in his second over but, with anticipation building even among the home fans, he had to settle for a sweetly-struck four through the covers from the final delivery.
There were ironic boos from the 8,000 spectators who had been hoping to see a rare full house of maximums, and Willey admitted he was unusually deflated to see one of his shots racing to the boundary.
“Yeah, I probably was disappointed… especially in an England shirt. I can barely get it off the square usually,” he said with a broad smile.
“It would have been nicer to get the final one too but if you’re hitting 34 off an over you can’t complain.
“I got a chance at the top of the order with a couple of niggles and I had nothing to lose. I went out with a bit of a free rein and managed to clear the ropes a few times. No complaints.”
Willey made his name as a dashing top-order stroke-maker in county cricket and performed a similar role during his recent Big Bash stint with Perth Scorchers but has never batted higher than seven for England.
He only got his promotion to open the innings after Alex Hales (hand) and Jason Roy (back) withdrew from the game and has no illusions about making a permanent move.
“I think I’ll be sliding back down to nine or 10 for the first game (against Australia), that was my one chance,” he said.
“I don’t think I can walk in there and say I should be batting higher up the order. I do that job back home and my job did with England is different.
“I’m just honoured to wear the shirt and whatever role I try to do the best I can.”
England won the toss at Manuka Oval and restricted a strong-looking home team, boasting seven Australian internationals with a total of 239 caps, to 136 for eight.
Willey took the first two scalps and finished with three for 32, while left-arm spinner Liam Dawson claimed three for 16.
Lyon, captaining in front of premier Malcolm Turnbull, was seen as key to his side’s defence and also had the chance to make the national selectors feel awkward about his continued white-ball exile.
Instead, he was a victim of Willey’s big day.
“In T20 cricket anything can happen,” the Englishman said.
“Sometimes you bowl well and go the distance, other times you bowl poorly and get wickets. There’s no doubt he’s an unbelievable bowler, his record shows that. I managed to get hold of him today but on another day it could be different.”