ALEX Hales was again England's star batsman as they began their summer of cricket with a T20 defeat to world champions Sri Lanka yesterday.

England were beaten by nine runs at The Oval with Hales - who broke his own T20 record with 116 against Sri Lanka at the World Cup - again the pick of the England players.

He made 66 this time off just 41 balls, hitting seven fours and two sixes as England tried to chase down Sri Lanka's score of 183-7.

But no other England batsman could stay with former Amersham and Gerrards Cross batsman Hales until Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara made 26 and 28 respectively down the order.

England eventually reached 174-7 from their 20 overs.