October 16, 2013

Finch channels his inner Henry VIII

Andrew Hughes
James Faulkner poked Brad Haddin's eye while celebrating a wicket, India v Australia, 1st ODI, Pune, October 13, 2013
"Didn't you already poke me on Facebook last week?"  © BCCI
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Batsmen are like miners. A professional like Aaron Finch can hack away for weeks in grim isolation without luck. No matter how correctly he positions his feet or hones his pick-wielding technique, he has nothing to show for it but blistery fingers and empty pockets. Then one day, he turns up feeling a bit lazy, gives the rock a cursory one-handed tap, and is promptly showered in diamonds, coal, oil and doubloons. Well, Aaron has hit a rich seam of runs lately and has been busy stuffing as many as he can into his average.

He's part Henry VIII and part Brendon McCullum. The swagger and the apprentice beard have the makings of a full Henry, but the style is all McCullum. His sawn-off shots look a little ungainly, presumably because he is trying to manoeuvre a blade as heavy as those medieval broadswords they show you when you visit a museum, the kind that, if you tried to lift, would first sprain your wrists, then break your toes.

On Sunday he was at it again, offering us some mighty on-side cuffing, and some politely restrained cuts, all of which eluded the Indian fielders. As one sweetly struck shot sent the ball skittering through backward point, Siva optimistically shouted, "Ishant Sharma!" Television viewers stared intently at the screen, waiting for his arrival, but all they could see was lush pasture. The ball popped over the rope, rolled a bit, then came to a halt. The umpire gave his signal. The electronic scoreboard operator pressed the relevant buttons. The official scorer scribbled "four" in his book. The crowd resumed their seats. And then Ishant trotted into frame. "Can't get there," confirmed Siva.

Finch didn't do it alone. Glenn Maxwell's Kevin Pietersen impression is getting more uncanny with each airing and George Bailey top-scored with his mini-Ponting pull shots. The abiding image of the innings was of the Indian spinners creeping towards the crease as reluctantly as trick-or-treaters tiptoeing up Al Capone's garden path, putting it there, thereabouts or nowhere near, and of Australians tonking the ball into vast untenanted acres of grass.

Still, on the chart of big asks, 305 to win is about halfway up; a medium-to-large ask, an-eyebrow-raising ask, but not a Herculean ask. If King Eurystheus had asked the son of Zeus to knock off 305 to win in a one-day international, he'd have it done well within the 50 overs, and I doubt he'd have needed the batting Powerplay.

The Indian batsmen are mere mortals, but they've done this kind of thing before. And they made a reasonable start, until Shikhar nicked one to Haddin, which led to the game's defining moment, the Curious Incident of the Poke in the Eye.

As we know, international cricket demands intense focus. If you lose concentration even for a moment, anything could happen: you might lose your wicket, you might stray down leg side, you might jab your team-mate in both eyes with a high-five-cum-Nazi-salute. Replays of the Haddin Eye-Pronging showed that James Faulkner, confronted with two rapidly approaching team-mates, rashly attempted simultaneous high-fives, requiring a total of eight palms, when only six were available. Tragedy ensued.

Once everyone had finished laughing, the game resumed, and India were doing okay, until suddenly they weren't. The new No. 4, Raina, slogged one to third man, then the old new No. 4, Yuvraj, tried a dinky little chest-high dab-nudge when the situation demanded a Phil Hughes-style lash, or even a Phil Tufnell-style evasive tumble.

Of course, it's never over until the Chennai men are gone, but that didn't take long. Jadeja tried something that might have been a pull shot, but which had all the power and urgency of an early morning yawn, causing the ball to sigh reluctantly to mid-on.

Distraught at the exit of his protégé, captain Dhoni got himself bowled by Clint McKay. The last time I can remember seeing Clint McKay bowl was at Edgbaston, and the last two things I can remember saying about Clint McKay were: "That's Clint McKay," and, "Not that fast, is he?" Well, he managed to slip one by Dhoni, and instead of a clichéd fist-pumping roar, he refreshingly opted for the good old-fashioned whoop, a much underrated victory noise.

After that, it was left to the Kumars to sweep up. Vinay played an enormous shot of extravagant conception that had little to recommend it, and Bhuvneshwar offered up a delightfully arcing little dink that took the trajectory of a malfunctioning Diwali firework and spluttered into the hands of Voges, b The Mighty Finch.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by ThatsJustCricket on (October 16, 2013, 18:46 GMT)

More evidence on why Dhoni keeps insisting on playing extra batters in the line up. With bowling "power" like this, he can actually go in with 11 batsmen and ask them to come in and roll their arm over. Can't do much worse than this, can they?

Posted by   on (October 16, 2013, 7:14 GMT)

After a long time, a good article from you..

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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