“The desperate move of playing him paid off, and with Khawaja in some fine form too, Australia can shift their focus to rectifying the rest of the batting order before India come calling”
It was a desperate move. Deep in the waters after the embarrassing sandpaper incident left Australian cricket reeling, the Aussie selectors had no choice but to turn to white-ball cricket specialist Aaron Finch, who had displayed his nonchalance about the format just a few months ago, for the two-match Test series against Pakistan. Though widely regarded as a fine player of spin, the sternest test for the 31-year-old would have been to transform his whack-every-delivery mindset towards a more calmer approach, especially when the player had himself admitted that Test cricket was not a format he was looking to playing.
Arriving to the sapping conditions in UAE with a formidable side awaiting the cocooned Aussie unit, not much was expected of Finch and he was being viewed as yet another player inducted into the side due to the lack of worthy options. Predicted to not make a long-lasting impact, however, seemed to have worked in the Victorian’s favour as he, along with his opening duo Usman Khawaja, were the only positives that Australia can take forward from the match into the highly competitive series against India starting next month.
They first came together to script a mammoth 142-run opening wicket partnership in the first innings – the first 100+ opening partnership for the side in two years – to lay the momentum for a fighting display in the first innings, and then combined to add 87 in the second, with the 31-year-old debutant looking positive and calm in his approach.
Navigating away the obvious weakness against the LBW – he did survive a huge appeal in the first innings against a Yasir Shah delivery, Finch was a sedate self as he started off cautiously against Mohammad Abbas and Wahab Riaz. The obvious difference in his mindset was visible when he kept his attacking mode on check, playing with gentle punches and defending deliveries that needed respect.
When he was cramped up for room by the senior spinner, the Aussie ensured that he was quick to hurry back into his crease and play out the delivery. He looked ugly when he attempted to break the shackles as well, but by never losing his aim of holding his end up, Finch survived the toughest of conditions. He did display his intentions though after Yasir, who has gone wicketless in the match thus far, bowled a beautiful leg-break that drifted in and spun away from the right-hander, beating Finch on the outside edge.
Not one to allow the opponent to get away, Finch responded in grand style off the very next delivery, sending a shorter ball firing towards the boundary. Four balls later, he planted his front foot forward and smashed the delivery with the turn for a maximum. The battle between the two stalwarts was intriguing and exciting – Yasir attempting to slow down the pace of his deliveries and Finch looking to sweep the variations that came towards him.
His triumph over spin continued in the second innings as well, as he was successful in defending balls with a huge stride forward. Aware that spin would play a huge role in the fourth innings of a typical Asia pitch, the player was in no mood for risks and only sent deliveries away that were overpitched or too straight for him.
His ability to dig himself out and make the room even when the bowler was eager to cramp him up was a skill that remained impressive and till Mohammad Abbas – not surprisingly – got him out with an LBW, Finch’s Test entry had looked serene and something that the side needed, despairingly.
With Shane Warne not hesitating to call Finch as the future captain of the Baggy Green side after his outings in the first Test, Finch could have heaved a sigh of relief. The desperate move of playing him paid off, and with Khawaja in some fine form too, Australia can shift their focus to rectifying the rest of the batting order before India come calling.