“David Warner and Steve Smith will be back and there will be a minor rejig. But Finch ain’t going anywhere. He is still Australia’s premier white-ball batsman and his form is going to be crucial in the World Cup”
There’s been a lot written on Aaron Finch and his wretched form over the last few months. It’s almost become clichéd to say that the Australian limited-overs skipper has failed miserably ever since that dazzling 172 off 76 balls, he hit in the shortest format against Zimbabwe back in early July last year.
In 34 innings (across formats) since, Finch has managed to muster just 659 at an average of 19.38 and just three half-centuries. 17 of his innings were single-digits scores. In 11 ODI innings in the same period, he had just four scores in excess of 20 and just one score of fifty or more. Finch’s weakness at the top against the moving ball and the ball coming back in, in particular, had been exposed.
Finch had a woeful season at home. He had a decent Test debut in the UAE but he struggled throughout the Test series against India and was eventually dropped after the first three Tests. In 6 ODIs, he could manage a mere 83 runs at a disappointing average of 13.83. With the likes of Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb in really good form, there were calls for him to be dropped once the big stars, Steve Smith and David Warner return.
However, he has roared back and has made a statement. His patient and fighting 116 helped Australia hunt down 281 with ease, something which wasn’t expected when the chase began. Before the ODI series in India, there were a lot of questions raised. It surrounded his batting and whether he was the ‘real captain’. In that five-match series, he did register a couple of ducks but he did show signs of returning to form.
He had scores of 37, 93 and 27 in the other three games (apart from his ducks). That 93 he scored in Mohali (third ODI) was his most fluent knock in quite a while and it would’ve given him a lot of confidence. He carried that to the UAE and it showed in the way he batted in the first ODI in Sharjah.
The pitch wasn’t a batting paradise. Pakistan’s score of 280 looked a good one. The spinners were expected to get assistance in the second half and it has been Australia’s nemesis over the last few years, not too much in the white-ball but they have time and again, struggled against spin. Finch knew that and along with Khawaja, he tried to attack in the powerplay. Australia scored 61 in the first ten overs and Finch had crossed the 30-run mark just for the fourth time since July last year.
He was going nearly at a strike-rate of 100 but once Khawaja was dismissed in the 12th over, he slowed down a tad. From 31 off 34 balls, he reached his half-century (just fourth across formats since that 172) on the 63rd delivery. It was his first against Pakistan in the 50-over format.
The Aussie skipper then picked up the pace a touch as he rotated the strike a lot more freely and frequently, got the odd boundary or six and kept up with the asking rate. He got his next 40 runs off 40 deliveries as he entered the 90s. He was dismissed in the 90s (93) against India and was wary of that fact. He did take a little bit of time as he took 16 deliveries to get to 96 before launching a big six over cow corner and reaching the coveted three-figure mark. It was Finch’s first ton in over nine months and a lot had changed since. It was a huge relief and the monkey was off his back.
The 32-year-old Victorian was eventually dismissed for 116 as he put Australia on the cusp of a memorable win. His partnership with Shaun Marsh was a fabulous one and by his own admission, both complemented each other well and took the pressure off each other when the other was not going well. “He [Shaun Marsh] took the pressure off me when I struggled and vice versa, I managed to get a couple away when he was going through a bit of a flat spot. I think it was a nice partnership,” Finch was quoted saying after the game.
Yes, the dew did kick in and made things a little easier. But take nothing away from Finch who was patient throughout the knock. There were phases where he struggled and had to play the big shot to break the shackles. Hence, he paced his innings beautifully. Hence, for his knock of 116, he was awarded the player of the match. It was just his fourth player of the match award in his ODI career.
What this knock and win also did was it gave Australia their fourth win on the bounce. It is something that has never happened in the last 12 months. Let alone four, they had a total of two ODI wins in 2018. Hence, Finch has not only made a statement with the bat, but he’s also led the team well. He’s rubbished all the talks and murmurs around.
Yes, David Warner and Steve Smith will be back and there will be a minor rejig. But Finch ain’t going anywhere. He is still Australia’s premier white-ball batsman and his form is going to be crucial in the World Cup.