Australia v New Zealand, World Cup 2015 Final, Melbourne March 27, 2015

The revival of Australia's ODI fortunes

They were notably down on confidence at the Champions Trophy in 2013 but the changes in mindset since then have taken them all the way to the World Cup final
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Aaron Finch's aggression at the top has been a part of a major mindset shift from Australia's awful Champions Trophy © Getty Images

A World Cup campaign that will end at the MCG on Sunday began in the Hampshire town of Southampton in September 2013. So did Aaron Finch's.

Following an awful Champions Trophy for Australia, of which neither Finch nor the coach Darren Lehmann were a part, both men found themselves in the set-up that convened after the loss of a third consecutive Ashes series in England.

Finch's place in the Australian limited-overs squad had been transient up to that point: he was initially not selected for the 50-over component of the trip. But a barnstorming innings of 156 in the opening T20 match at Ageas Bowl saw him retained for the rest of the tour, and he has been in the team ever since.

It is easy to forget how inept Australia had appeared during the Champions Trophy, lacking sorely in any confidence to take the game on and, it was later to be revealed, squabbling among themselves. It was the final straw for the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and team performance manager Pat Howard, who sacked Mickey Arthur and replaced him with Lehmann for the Ashes.

If the Test series showed small shoots of growth, it was the limited-overs assignments following them that illustrated how Lehmann wanted his men to play. Finch's efforts in Hampshire set a template for top-order batting, and Mitchell Johnson would later put the frighteners on England's batsmen with pace bowling of high class and undeniable venom.

Eighteen months later, Finch looked back on that time as a significant one for him and the team. It was a period in which a group of players scarred by the India Test tour and the "homework" fiasco were coaxed back into a more aggressive mindset, imbued with belief by Lehmann and permitted to make mistakes.

"I doubted whether I was going to actually be in that touring squad, luckily I got that 150 in the Ageas Bowl game," Finch recalled. "That's probably what might have tipped them over the edge to keep me in the squad. To come in then was really nice, it was a fresh attitude and new coaching staff and everything.

"I think I'd got 150 against Queensland at the Gabba one time when Boof was coach of the Bulls, so hopefully small things like that add up and he remembers them."

The mindset differences between Australia at the Champions Trophy and Australia after it were quickly apparent. Finch's hitting at the Ageas Bowl showed what was possible when he was allowed to unleash the more destructive side of his cricketing nature, bludgeoning perfectly respectable bowling to all parts of the ground.

Others were similarly liberated, from George Bailey, who excelled in India on the following tour, to Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell. At the same time the likes of Maxwell and Steven Smith were encouraged to make the most of their outlandish talent, even if it meant playing a shot an over rather than one a ball.

"I think what's important from the coach and the captain is you've got so much confidence in when you tell them how you think you're playing and the strategy you're going with, they back you 100%," Finch said of Lehmann and Michael Clarke. "That does give you a lot of confidence, because you know if you miss out a couple of times that you're not just going to be moved to the side and, I suppose, go back to Shield cricket and try and work your way back up.

"They have confidence in you and confidence in your game plan. You've seen that in the way Australia have played over the past two years. It's attacking, it's taking the game on. When the game's there to be won, it's generally the team that attacks the most generally wins…"

Finch has been repaid for his earlier efforts by the fact he has been retained throughout this tournament, even if his form dipped badly after an opening hundred against England. At the SCG, he played an uncharacteristically muted innings, but in doing so helped Smith to spread his wings.

"It wasn't my most fluid innings, but it was nice to get through that," Finch said. "They bowled well early and then I felt like I hit a lot of fielders in that middle part, but to get through that and contribute to big a partnership… Smithy was going so well, he took a lot of pressure off and allowed me to keep just chipping away.

"It was a bit of a struggle the whole way through, to be honest. To be able to keep chipping away and not throw it away when it probably would have been easier - there were a couple of times I felt a bit of pressure and wanted to go after one. Just keep soaking it up and make sure we were there as far as we could was satisfying."

Finch at the SCG was Australia at this World Cup: not quite fluent, but ever powerful, and unfailingly determined to see the job through. They, and he, are almost there.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jake on March 29, 2015, 23:31 GMT

    To all those sayings "Australia only wins at home" the World Cup only comes this part of the world every 20 years or more. The last four World Cups have been won Away from home conditions... Any more complaints? Maybe all World Cups in the future should be played in India..then again their supporters would still sook about something like "the balls too round "

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 22:42 GMT

    For the last nine years a group of my mates hold a raffle every time we play India, to see which excuse they will use when they lose. True story. Sometimes we follow their progress around the world. Believe it or not, my brother won a bottle of Scotch when India blamed the warm up pitch in Brisbane.

    I've just won big on India losing the toss

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 13:02 GMT

    People, stop blaming the toss... Dhoni said in the press conference since it was "reversing",he expected his fast bowlers to do much better... If it was reversing,imagine starc,johnson @150kph and hazzlewood with his accuracy, faulkner with his variations, they would have bundled out india for <250,unless india batted extremely well(which india could have,but didn in the second innings). India lost because,dhawan played a careless shot,rohit premeditated, kohli impatient(unlike finch), raina dumb and dhoni played an insipid innings....basically,in aus conditions,you cant win with 6 frontline batsman....and a player who is part-time bowler,part time batsman.... aus were better and india should find a good all rounder for all conditions...

  • Amit on March 28, 2015, 12:26 GMT

    India were undone by the toss, it was evident by the HUGE grin on Clarke's face after winning the toss. Hope he loses the toss against NZ, we'll see how good they are.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 7:48 GMT

    It's fearsome fast bowling, batting depth and home advantage versus team unity, unbelieveable fielding and outright aggression. The two best captains in world cricket face off. Who will win? Australia by a short head. New Zealand will struggle on the much bigger Aussie grounds.

  • Cricinfouser on March 28, 2015, 4:28 GMT

    Maxwell and mccullums approach will b interesting. Especially mccullums

  • Swastik on March 28, 2015, 4:23 GMT

    I don't think we lost due to the toss, that's poor to be honest. I haven't read all the comments but if people are saying that, that's serious denial. We had a better chance chasing and I don't think the gulf between Australia and the other teams is as much as the fans are trying to make it sound now. So, yeah, bring on the new matches with Australia wherever it is, India or Australia. I think we'll be far more competitive going ahead.

  • Krishen on March 28, 2015, 3:26 GMT

    Fortunes of all teams have changed after CT13. This is mainly due to rule changes in ODI cricket including the two new ball and 4 fielder restrictions. Whatever the justification for changes ,it has meant a big advantage for fast bowling based attacks & big disadvantage for reverse swing and spin bowling based attacks. The task of spinners was made difficult as they don't have option of bowling bouncers and can be easily targeted with 4 fielder restriction. Thus a big advantage to teams with deficiency in playing spin and a big disadvantage to teams with strength in spin bowling. The pitch conditions with virtually no assistance for spinners in key matches has completed the recipe for some teams in CWC15. In CWC11 much more balanced pitch conditions existed as Zahir Khan( fast bowler) and Shahid Afridi (spinner) finished as highest wicket takers. Finch unlike IND top order batsmen curbed much talked aggression & played a balanced but game changing innings for AUS in SF v IND.

  • sri on March 28, 2015, 3:10 GMT

    Finch, Watson and to an extent Clarke in this format are still the chinks in the armor. But i think this team combination is still good enough to beat any team. And if they win the toss this could be a one sided game. If they don't, all depends on how well NZ bat. Baz short fireworks wont be of any help here. Taylor looks like he forgot how to bat in One dayers. But if Kanes, Guptill, Anderson click and put up a decent target say 290-320 then the game is on.

  • cric on March 28, 2015, 2:34 GMT

    @PAT_ONE_BACK - Its not about denial. Aussies are a better (or best) side currently on form as well as home and playing conditions. Their bowlers are more confident and aware of bowling at these pitches/grounds, they have batters to make best use of stupid ICC rules of field restriction even outside powerplays and also have genuine good hitters. So all in all they have the best package to win this WC. On other side Indian batsmen may be technically good and may score freely but can not thrash like Maxwell, ABD, Warner, Finch, McCullum, Gayle etc. Plus bowling is weak as well with no left arm bowlers.Outside Australia, and with more bowler friendly (balanced) ICC rules, I believe following is the true ranking (with little bit here & there) - 1. SA 2. Ind/Aus 4. SL 5. PAK 6. NZ 7. ENG 8. WI 9. IRE 10. BANThis WC was always between Kiwis and Aussies as they are the most prepared and well deserving sides (in such conditions) to win just like last WC was between IND and SL - An India Fan

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