With this game of very little context starting at 3.30 AM Victorian time I had very little incentive to watch. So I didn’t. However I recorded the game for the sole purpose of watching Fawad Ahmed bowling his first overs in Australian colours. But after waking up on Friday morning and reading the scorecard and match report on cricinfo.com, watching the whole game, or at very least the Australian innings, became compulsory viewing. Some 36 hours later I viewed the entire game and it was cricket at its shortest form best.
Entirely due to the world record T20 International innings played by AJ Finch, of Victoria Bushrangers, Melbourne Renegades, Pune Warriors, Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, Geelong CC and Colac West CC fame. In his 7th T20 International Finch made a name for himself in making Australia’s first ever T20 ton as well as smashing Kiwi Brendon McCullum’s world record score of 123 in his innings of 156 off just 63 balls with 11 fours and 14 sixes. This was hitting, as opposed to batting, at it’s very best. Anything slightly short was dispatched somewhere to or over the on-side boundary. Anything full was smashed straight back down the ground. Just brutal. Finch was well and truly in the “zone” that cricketers talk about but seldom find themselves in. Finch was well supported in a 114 2nd wicket partnership by fellow white ball specialist Shaun Marsh (who made 28 off 21 balls) and a 101 run 3rd wicket partnership with Shane Watson who made 37 off 16 balls. Maxwell and Bailey threw their wickets away in the teams interest in the final overs as Australia finished at 6/248 off their 20 overs.
England battled hard in reply, making 6/209 off their 20 overs to go down by 39 runs. Joe Root surely would have paid out well to top score for the Poms but that’s just what he did, his unbeaten 90 of 49 balls the only thing that gave the home side any chance of a win, and showed an unorthodoxy that wasn’t evident in his Test match batting. All the Australian bowlers went for around 10 an over, with Mitch Johnson and Josh Hazelwood taking 2 wickets each. On debut Fawad Ahmed went for 43 off his four overs without taking a wicket. Why they would play him in T20 against an opponent he will more than likely make his Test debut against this Summer is beyond me. Don’t expect too much of our new leggie, he reminds me of Bryce McGain (pre McGain’s shoulder injury on the 2008 Indian tour) in that he lands it on the spot regularly, has good variation but without the ripping turn of a Warne or MacGill. A very good ordinary leg-spinner.
I did sit up and watch the women’s T20 International that preceded the men’s game and viewed a great contest. The lesser ability of the women to clear the fence makes for a much more absorbing game and makes the 20 over game much purer. Despite opener Meg Lanning’s knock of 60 off 53 balls, Australia’s 7/127 was never going to be enough. M.Lanning can really bat, any chance you can see her at the crease get on board, probably the best young batter of either gender in this country. England passed the Aussies score reasonably easily, Lydia Greenway’s unbeaten 80 off 64 balls the match winning innings.
What a day for Aaron Finch though. He already has a prosperous T20 career around the globe and now it’s time to establish himself in his country’s limited over teams. Given our dearth of quality batsmen under 30 the ball is very much in his court. His domestic one-day and T20 form can’t be faulted. So there’s no reason Finch can’t become a regular in these formats for his country. But we desperately need Test quality batsmen. AJ Finch’s red ball form is poor, if not very ordinary. An average of just 29.56 over 33 first class matches shows that a Baggy Green is a long way off despite his International T20 form and the ridiculous calls to ‘give him a baggy green’ on the back of this extraordinary innings.. Finch sought a move to NSW over this winter to gain more Sheffield Shield cricket opportunities. He’s had plenty of chances for his native Victoria, and will get plenty again this season where he will serve the final year of his contract with the Bushrangers. Make the most of it Finchy, and you will be Victoria’s next Test batsman. You are good enough, just remember you have to bat properly as well as being a great T20 hitter for hire. There’s a number 3 position waiting for the right player.
Australia 6/248 (AJ Finch 156, SR Watson 37, SE Marsh 28, JW Dernbach 3/34) def.
England 6/209 (JE Root 90*, RS Bopara 45, MG Johnson 2/41)
Australian Women 7/127 (MM Lanning 60, AJ Blackwell 25, D Hazell 2/11) lost to
England Women 5/128 (LS Greenway 80*, CM Edwards 24, SJ Coyte 2/29)