<
>

Victoria won't split their openers for Aaron Finch's Test benefit

Aaron Finch is a picture of concentration as he defends on the second day Getty Images

Victoria captain Peter Handscomb has all but confirmed that Aaron Finch will not open the batting in this week's Sheffield Shield clash against Queensland at the Gabba, despite Finch looking set to open for Australia in the first Test against India.

Handscomb, who himself has been named in Australia's 14-man squad for Adelaide, said a final decision had not yet been made but following Victoria coach Andrew McDonald's comments last week, suggesting Finch was better suited to the middle order, Handscomb reiterated that Victoria were unlikely to break up their opening combination of Marcus Harris and Travis Dean, despite the fact that Harris and Finch could well be the opening combination for Australia in the first Test in Adelaide.

"Obviously Harry has got the call up [to the Australia squad] and Deany has been making runs for us for years, so it's hard to knock those two out of the opening positions for us," Handscomb said. "Finchy averages 50 batting at No.5 and 6 for us so it's also hard to change that as well."

Finch's average over the last two Sheffield Shield seasons at No.5 and 6 for Victoria is 46.41, from 13 innings only, and includes two centuries and three fifties. His career average for Victoria in those two spots is 32.89 from 29 innings.

He has not opened for Victoria since 2013-14 where he averaged just 18.50 at the top of the order in eight innings Shield innings, that did include 97 against South Australia at the MCG.

The situation involving Finch's revolving position has not pleased Shane Warne who came out strongly on Twitter calling it a "disgrace" and that Victoria should be doing what is right for Australia.

Finch's overall first-class average at the top of the order is actually better than his career first-class record. He averages 46 from 24 innings, that includes games for Australia A, the Cricket Australia XI and Australia, with two centuries and six half-centuries.

He made 122 in a match for Australia A against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2011, sharing in a 289-run opening stand with David Warner. He also scored 288 not out for the CA XI against New Zealand in a bizarre tour game at Blacktown in Sydney in 2015. He and former New South Wales batsman Ryan Carters put on 503 for the first wicket in 121 overs before the match was abandoned due to an unsatisfactory pitch.

Finch made scores of 62, 49, 39 and 31 in the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE after being picked as a makeshift opener for the tour. He had batted no higher than No.4 in his previous 44 first-class innings over nearly three years prior to that tour.

He has been opening in T20 and ODI cricket for Australia since the UAE tour but has been struggling for runs. Handscomb believes batting in the middle order in the Shield game would not affect Finch's preparation for the Test match.

"I wouldn't be worried at all," Handscomb said. "Finchy has been opening the batting in white-ball cricket. He's been facing a new swinging ball. And batting No.5 and 6 you also get the opportunity to face the second new ball, hopefully, if we've done our job right. He'll be fine. He'll get what he needs. If he does open the batting for Australia he's ready to go."

Handscomb said his own call up to the Australia Test squad had come as a surprise after his omission from the Test tour in the UAE.

"It's a weird one," Handscomb said. "I was hoping that I was going to get the call but I wasn't entirely sure what was going to happen and what direction the selectors were going, but obviously I was very happy that they've gone with me."

He has not received any indication as to whether he will play in Adelaide but he has been in contact with Australia coach Justin Langer.

"He just messaged once the side got announced and just said congratulations and good work on getting yourself back in," Handscomb said. "But I've got another Shield game to go and he just said go out there and showcase what you've got."