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Finch's Australia shed aggression but not winning ways

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Finch opens up about staying fresh on the road (1:30)

Australian captain Aaron Finch on what helps himself and his team-mates get their minds away from cricket on off days (1:30)

Aaron Finch, Australia's captain, believes that his team's reformed attitude in the field has been a factor in a World Cup that has been notable for the spirit between the teams.

In beating England last week on the same strip that will be used for tomorrow's showdown against New Zealand, Finch's Australians became the first team to book a place in next month's semi-finals.

And looking back on the 2015 event in Australia, when they beat the same opponents to secure the World Cup for a record fifth time, Finch admitted that the tone of that tournament on that occasion had been significantly more aggressive, "mainly from us".

But, in the wake of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal - and the bans for three of their players including the then captain and vice-captain Steven Smith and David Warner - Australia have gone out of their way to present a new, more friendly, attitude. So far at this World Cup, a softer approach has not impacted on their hard attitude in the big moments, and Finch is happy to revel in the wider benefits.

"I think it has been a great spirit out on the field, regardless of results," Finch said. "You see a lot of smiles on people's faces, which is a good sign that the game's in really good hands at the moment, and that it is being played in the right spirit.

"I'm not sure if it's been a conscious effort from individual countries, but it certainly felt like a really, really good tournament."

Australia and New Zealand have been involved in two of the stand-out moments of sporting behaviour in the tournament so far - firstly when Virat Kohli appealed to India's fans at The Oval to stop booing Smith and Warner - an intervention that led to a mid-pitch handshake with Smith shortly afterwards - and then at Old Trafford last week, when New Zealand's players queued up to console Carlos Brathwaite, after his stunning century had come so close to sealing victory for West Indies.

"It's tough to compare different times [but] I know the last one was quite an aggressive World Cup on the field, mainly from us," Finch said. "We were quite aggressive in our approach and how we went about things.

"But it's been great. This one has been absolutely brilliant, and I think what's been really pleasing as well, [comes when] you look around the stands, regardless of who is playing.

"In the past, if the home team is not playing, there could be some really empty stands, but this has been unbelievable. They have been packed-out venues and really quality cricket, so people are definitely getting their value for money, too."

Kane Williamson, New Zealand's captain, echoed the sentiments about the crowd, and looked forward to sampling a different vibe at Lord's from the one that he has been used to on his previous visits.

"The atmospheres have varied a lot," he said. "Pakistan was very loud. Bangladesh, very loud. India, we didn't even play and they were very loud [chuckles].

"Usually you come to Lord's, there's sort of a quiet murmur when you play England, but I guess playing Australia it might be a little bit different when you have Kiwis and Australians filling out the seats. It will be a really good atmosphere, whatever it is, but I know for a fact that both teams are just looking forward to getting into the cricket."

Australia, for once, might not have anticipated going into tomorrow's contest as favourites, having struggled throughout 2018, including a 5-0 series defeat against England. But order has been restored with their comprehensive displays in the crunch moments of this event, and Finch said his side was ready once again to embrace the role of tournament front-runners.

"Oh, I think that any time you have pressure on you, it's because the expectations high, because of what you have done in the recent history," he said.

"So you can never shy away from that, and you can look at it either way. You can look at it as a burden, and only you can stuff it up, but I think at the end of the day, when you're talking about [being favourites] and things like that, you also have to appreciate the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes from the coaches and everyone to get to that position.

"Whether it's us, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Bangladesh, I think the expectation for everyone is all the same; that you turn up and that you can win the World Cup. So if it did happen, it would be a huge achievement for the country."

Despite their damaging defeat against Australia, England remain in the running to win their first World Cup, in spite of Jonny Bairstow's belief that his team's critics are "waiting for them to fail". And while Finch said that he hadn't seen anything quite that explicit in the media, his own team's recent brushes with the opinion columns had persuaded them to ban newspapers in the team environment.

"I haven't seen anything written [about England]," he said. "I've watched a TV, a bit of Sky News and things like that that, but in terms of papers, we don't have them around our team room.

"We have made a conscious effort of that over the tournament, and that was basically on the back of coming over here. We knew that there would be some stuff written and there would be some opinions had when we first landed in the country.

"So we just wanted to take as much white noise as we could away from our focus. It is quite hard to comment on it because I honestly haven't seen much of it.

"But it's about getting away from the game and make sure you're refreshing as much as you can," he added, joking that he had been spending a lot of time on the golf course until his wife arrived in the country, and now shopping is his primary pastime.

"Overall, it's about making sure that if there's half a day, that you take that for yourself and do everything that you can to clear your mind.

"For me, that's cafes and golf. For Usman [Khawaja], that's shopping. A few of us play golf. Steve Smith is still walking around his room with a cricket bat in his hand. It's just totally different for everyone, but just mentally refreshing every chance you get is so important."