Victorian Finch celebrates MCG milestone
In September, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh smashed the Australian record for the all-time highest opening partnership in a one-day international. Finch's maiden ODI century was a key factor. Four months later, Finch's second one-day hundred has now put a serious dent in Marsh's hopes of getting back in the side.
Finch's 148 in that match will always occupy a special place for him as his first hundred for his country in the 50-over format. But his 121 in Melbourne on Sunday evening, against sterner opposition, and in front of nearly 40,000 fans, will remain special for Finch for another reason. He became the first Victorian to score an ODI century at the MCG.
"I didn't know that until after the game," Finch said. "It's a very nice feeling. It's a phenomenal place to play cricket, the atmosphere, the ground, everything is ideal for cricket. It's a place that I've loved playing over the years for Victoria and when you get accolades like that it's nice. I thought that Deano [Jones] definitely would have got one before me but he must have missed out a couple of times."
The closest Jones ever came to achieving the feat was his 93 against England in 1986-87, although he was also left not out in the 80s on two other occasions. As a young boy growing up in Colac, in Victoria's south-west, Finch would have seen the back end of Jones' international career while dreaming of emulating, let alone surpassing, his feats.
Finch's 121 against England was far from a chanceless innings - he was dropped on 8 and continued to ride his luck throughout - but it has given him confidence that a place at the top of the ODI order can be his for the long term. The home World Cup is just over a year away and the Finch-David Warner opening combination may well be the one Australia carry in to that tournament.
"Marshy has been in good form in the Big Bash and he was in England before he got injured again," Finch said. "It's always nice to do well early in a series and keep the pressure on and hopefully keep my spot for a couple more games.
"I think [the World Cup] is a little bit on everyone's mind. It's important to start a series really well. As a batsman, it gives you a lot of confidence going through the series and it's not an easy game when you're chasing your tail and chasing runs and trying to grind them out towards the end of the series.
"It's important to get them early and then you can play on the back of that with confidence and really try and turn it into an outstanding series personally and for the team and really try and cement your spot. I don't [think] there's a hell of a lot of one-day cricket to be played before the World Cup in 2015, so I think it's really important to get runs and stay in the side. It's going to be hard with the quality of players lined up to take your spot, it's exceptional, so to keep them at bay for a little while longer is a good feeling."
For now, Finch is doing just what he needs to - scoring big runs when he gets the chance in the national side. Since the end of the Ashes in England, he has made 780 runs at 55.71 in all formats for Australia. Nobody has a better average than Finch in that time and only George Bailey and Shane Watson, who are also part of the Test side, have scored more runs.
Finch celebrated his hundred in the middle of the MCG with a high five from his captain and batting partner Michael Clarke, as they ran through for a couple of runs, followed by a hug and a lengthy acknowledgement of the crowd's standing ovation. Although Finch fell with 33 runs still required for the victory, his effort was easily sufficient to earn his third Man of the Match award for Australia from 28 one-day and T20 appearances.
"With the hug, it was a very big relief to get the hundred," Finch said. "In front of my home crowd, it was very special. I was pretty keen to get on with the game and continue on, but he [Clarke] made sure I soaked it up and really appreciated the moment. He just said enjoy it, soak it up, keep going, let's keep playing well. Make sure you're not out at the end. So I let the captain down a little bit there."
Finch and James Pattinson, who did not play the first ODI, will now be released from the squad to play for the Melbourne Renegades against the Sydney Thunder on Tuesday, before rejoining the group ahead of the second ODI in Brisbane. Shane Watson will be rested from that Brisbane match on Friday as Australia continue to manage the workload of their Test and ODI players, but Mitchell Johnson will be back after being given the Melbourne match off.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here