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England have been steadfast in their approach to the start of ODI innings but they were given another lesson in the value of power at the top of the order by Aaron Finch
Vithushan Ehantharajah at the MCG
January 12, 2014
Features : Doherty's second chance, Finch's second life
Report : Finch hundred sets up Australia win
News : Warner's reprieve was 'wrong' - Cook
Matches: Australia v England at Melbourne
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
"Bring in Tymal Mills!" they cried, when Mitchell Johnson and his slingy left arm rained down with great vengeance - because, quite clearly, the best way to combat a bowler is by picking an inexperienced one who shares the same action. "We need our own Boof!" claimed others - months after the same people mocked the promotion of Darren Lehmann, a man of the people, beers and smokes, at the expense of Micky Arthur.
Quicker than you could say "whitewash", Australia were the example to strive towards to be a better you; England were the dodgy friend your mum, in hindsight, never liked the look of.
Cricket is a sucker for self-reflection but its real strength is this mock Stockholm Syndrome - the tendency to admire your captors that every side, not just England, have suffered from during their darkest hours.
On this occasion, as the MCG swayed, by its own heady standards, with "just" 38,066 fans - most dressed in other people's clothes - it was hard not to revel in a smiting by Aaron Finch, whose hundred guided Australia to a comfortable victory. The old grumbles about the pace of England's own top order were quickly unpacked.
"That's how Australia went about it," offered Alastair Cook afterwards, suggesting that England themselves dealt in top-order hundreds, at their very best. But Finch's 121 couldn't have been more un-English had it belched in your face and offered no apology.
Cook denied the need for extra brawn at the top of the innings but you would be hard pressed to find any England fans who watched their team limp to 2 for 28 in their first 10 overs - compared to Australia's 64 without loss - that didn't yearn for similar force from a man in red rather than retro green and yellow.
Truth be told, England have their own svelte Finch-a-like in Alex Hales - the No. 1-ranked Twenty20 batsman in the world (Finch is ninth) - who is currently on these shores biding his time with the Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League before the international Twenty20s begin.
Since the new ODI regulations came into effect in late 2012, England have only managed to break the 50 barrier four times from 16 in which they have been allowed the full first 10 Powerplay overs. Only once, in Southampton last June, have they passed 60, their hand forced by a monstrous New Zealand total of 359. Even then, it wasn't enough.
Here, England's lower-middle order of Ravi Bopara, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler (with the additional help of Tim Bresnan) was charged with reaching par rather than taking them out of sight. Were it not for Gary Ballance's 79 and Eoin Morgan's much-needed impetus when he came in at 3 for 62, this game could have been over before the seagulls arrived to make the MCG theirs for the night.
Australia didn't happen upon batsmen like Finch. Take a cursory look around the BBL and you will find a plethora of heavy-hitters who, to steal a line from Dirk Nannes, have "a bit of a waist, thanks to a steady diet of 'cans' and 'darts' with their mates".
For a while, that's all Finch was - your mate at the pub that could hit a big ball. There was little doubt he could do the business in the small confines of the shortest format, but Australia's reluctance to chance him in the 50-over game was noteworthy.
It was the 2012-13 Ryobi Cup that won them around, as Finch notched two centuries and 504 runs across seven matches. Two years after his international T20 debut, he had his ODI one. But poor returns against Sri Lanka and West Indies cast an uneasy slant on 12 months since, which featured an astonishing 156 off 63 balls in T20 against England and a stat-buffing one-day 148 against Scotland.
He has fought off other candidates to open, such as Shaun Marsh and Phillip Hughes, who enjoyed a more fruitful 2013 in ODI cricket but didn't make Australia's squad for this series. And Finch paid out tonight.
At first he swung freely, enjoying three lots of good fortune, the most harrowing of which came when he just managed to pierce the hands of Ballance, positioned at mid-off, when he tried to force Chris Jordan over the top. On 8 at the time, he ran the bonus two runs and took the break between overs to collect himself. Another reprieve of sorts occurred two overs later when he edged through the second-slip region that had only just been vacated.
From then on, he was seemingly happy to concede that this slow pitch wasn't designed for his game. Twos were taken with ease, as boundary fielders were teased with drop-and-runs into the leg side. Once Australia were ahead of the rate, Finch helped maintain an appropriate, steady pace until he was eventually dismissed. By then, it was all over.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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