New environment has made difference, says 'satisfied' Finch
Aaron Finch has now broken the world record for the highest individual score in a T20I twice, and the Australian captain said that his 172 against Zimbabwe was "up there" as one of the best innings he has ever played.
"It's nice to break my own record," Finch said. "Satisfying. It's something that I'll look back on when I've finished playing and be really proud of. Any time you get a few out of the middle like that it's always nice. We started off quite well, and I just got on a little bit of a roll there. It was nice to get a few away."
Finch helped to break a couple of other records during his knock, adding the highest ever partnership in a T20I alongside D'Arcy Short, and then presiding over Australia's largest ever win in this format. With two wins in two in Zimbabwe, the horror of Australia's tour of England is beginning to recede, and Finch suggested that unfamiliar opponents and setting had made a big difference.
"We enjoyed our trip the UK," Finch said, somewhat paradoxically. "The results were horrendous for us, obviously, as we lost all six games. But I can't question how we trained or the intensity we trained at. When you get a bit of an inexperienced group together and you get on the back foot early in a series like that, you're chasing your tail for a long time and England just didn't let up. They didn't give us a sniff to get back into the series at all. That's just the quality side they are at the moment."
"The mood in the camp has always been really positive, and I think coming here we've brought that confidence that we had, but probably with a bit more self belief coming into a new tournament against two sides that we haven't played for a quite a while compared to a team that dominated us last summer in Australia and then did so again. So new opposition and new environment has made a difference here so far."
Zimbabwe might be new opposition for the Australians, but Finch is familiar with the country - having been here five times on various tours - and also with some of its players. Zimbabwe allrounder Solomon Mire holds Australian citizenship and scored a rookie contract with Melbourne Renegades in late 2013, training alongside Finch, who was Renegades captain. He debuted for the Renegades while Finch was away on national duty, but saw enough to be very well aware of just how destructive he could be.
"I definitely knew what he was capable of," said Mire, whose only over in the match went for 21, with 20 of those runs coming off Finch's bat. "I think you have to admire some of these feats. It's not every day you get to see such hitting coming off. When it does, everyone really just... it's quite amazing to watch, but not good for the team."
Some things have changed for Finch since he first broke the T20 batting record back in 2013. He's "a little bit older and a little bit wiser now" and, by his own admission, back then he "was just trying to make my way in international cricket and had a day out and got lucky in England". He has finally cemented his position in Australia's limited-overs sides, and circumstances have also handed him a captaincy role that he might have had his eyes on two years ago, before Cricket Australia handed that position to Steven Smith in all formats. "I think in the shorter formats of the game I've cemented my place a little bit more over the last couple of years with some pretty consistent performances," he said.
Then again, some things have not changed. He is still yet to break into the Australian Test side, and he has now scored more international hundreds (13) than any other batsman without playing Test cricket. That stat might frustrate a more hot-headed player, but Finch recognises that white-ball runs can't necessarily be parlayed into a Test cap.
"I'm not frustrated," he said. "I think that when I was a little bit younger I had an opportunity to really start pushing my case for a few years. But I had probably 18 to 24 months of really lean red-ball cricket. I was playing good one-day cricket for Australia but I couldn't put the runs on the board in four-day cricket. I've got myself to blame for that."
But, a little older and a little wiser, he has now learnt which of his skills might be transferable to long-form cricket, and is much more comfortable playing his natural game. "Now I've slowly started to build my red-ball game up again and I feel a lot more comfortable now playing my natural game, ultra-aggressive whether I'm playing in Australia or England. I do feel that over the last couple of years I've adapted my game and I'm in a much better position than I was a couple of years ago."
Finch's next stop after the tri-series will be as one of Surrey's overseas players for the T20 Blast. It's a gig he's looking forward to, and after his record-breaking knock, Surrey will be keener than ever to have him on their books. "Surrey is a great club to play for," said Finch. "The middle of London in the middle of summer is a pretty good place to be. It's an amazing place to play cricket, The Oval. The plan is to get over there after winning this series and try to pile on as many runs as possible."
When Finch broke the world record for the highest score in a T20I for the first time, journalist Jon Hotten wrote for ESPNcricinfo that his was "a record that'll be lucky to survive five years". As it turns out, Hotten was right and the record has fallen two months short of five years. "T20 [...] has a long time left, and we are only at the edges of what is possible there," Hotten wrote. "Aaron Finch will be a mad footnote in its relentless progress." Having expanded the limits of possibility once again, Finch adds another footnote to this format's rapidly expanding history. Who knows what heights he may still reach.
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town