Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo
Aaron Finch has lost again.
The toss, that is.
It's something the Australian captain has become accustomed to. Even Brad Haddin's ten-year-old son, Zac, ribbed him about his losing streak in the pre-match press conference - if you include warm-up matches, it's currently at nine. "Can you win a toss?" asked Zac. Apparently, the answer is no.
It's not the only losing streak Finch has suffered in the past year. Over the course of the Australian summer he had been dropped from the Test side after five matches and across six ODIs he had managed to eke out just 83 runs.
It shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who watched him switching formats and locations quicker than a catwalk model swaps outfits: two hemispheres, 15 cities and seven format changes from the time he was called up for a Test series in the UAE in October to the conclusion of the home ODI series against India in January. During a year in which he had married his long-term partner, Amy, he had only spent a handful of nights in his own home. Burnout was closing in.
Toss lost, Finch waited at the non-striker's end as Warner faced the first over from Lasith Malinga. Warner has been scratchy and sometimes hesitant while still scoring runs since his return; the opening partnership hasn't quite clicked into the one-two sucker punching of old, but there have been glimpses of its heyday.
Finch's turn came in the second over as Nuwan Pradeep, elbows akimbo, ran in from the Members' End and bowled a good length ball just outside off stump. The front foot drive was both no-nonsense and imperious, carving its way past mid-off for four. After three dot balls there it was again, this time straight past the bowler.
In the seventh over it's Malinga's turn. Another pair of glorious drives, another brace of boundaries, again through mid-off and straight down the ground.
When Finch drives well at the start of an innings it's a good sign. In the familiar surroundings of The Oval - Surrey fans must be licking their lips in anticipation of Finch and Jason Roy opening the batting together during the Blast - he displayed confidence in every movement; front foot, back foot, defend, free the arms.
Six months earlier that confidence was completely shot.
Finch's form drop was but one domino falling in the chain reaction that followed the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. He was shoe-horned into the Test side as David Warner's replacement as the selectors sought an apparent like-for-like aggressive shot-maker. It was to be a short-lived experiment, with Finch averaging 27.80, but it had the unwelcome knock-on effect of disrupting his white-ball form. He lost his natural rhythm and become tentative in both his thinking and his footwork. Even worse, he was overcome with crippling self-doubt.
"I think the time in Dubai, or in the UAE this year against Pakistan was really good," said Finch, speaking after the match at The Oval. "The end of the Indian series was really good, as well, in the one-dayers. I probably just changed my mind-set a little bit more than anything. I started to doubt my game a lot before that in the Australian summer and there was a lot of times when I was just questioning every single decision that I was making, whether it was technical, mental, physical.
"Everything that I could - that I was doing, I was just questioning because you're looking for an answer that you don't know what the answer is. So it can be really tough at times, when you don't know what the end result is, but you're searching so hard for something you don't know."
Finch had to search for a way through a tougher period, as Sri Lanka's attack countered and squeezed, Warner's stumps were shattered by Dhananjaya di Silva and Usman Khawaja struggled to get going, But on this day Finch had an answer and it was grounded in patience, as he and Steve Smith weathered the onslaught.
Watch on Hotstar (India only): Finch leads the way with match-winning 153
The release came as de Silva began the eighth over of his spell. Forget the earlier punches and drives, this was pure muscular dominance; after turning one fine to the leg-side boundary, Finch heaved back-to-back sixes down the ground. Shackles off, the century followed quickly but was celebrated perfunctorily; a briefly raised bat, then back to business.
It can seem strange that players can spend almost their entire lives immersed in the game - training, watching, playing, listening - and still be on a quest, searching for the Holy Grail that unlocks their talent. Finch has made hundreds - 14 in total - but he has only passed 150 twice, both times this year. The first was an unbeaten 153 in Sharjah against a weakened Pakistan team. This, the highest score by an Australian captain in a World Cup, was something more; a confirmation that Finch is back to the form that deserted him eight months ago.
"It was a really great learning for me over the summer," said Finch. "Obviously it would have been nice to have that at 22 and not 32, but I think overall, what I learned was you can strip it back as much as you want, but it doesn't change the basics of the game. The basics as an opening batter is to go out there and defend the good ball and score runs.
"So for me, I was looking for everything other than just the most basic thing, which is watch the ball and react to it. I mean, you can butter it up any way, but I was just going back to the basics, going back, doing a little bit of mental work on changing my mind-set to just be positive.
"And Andrew McDonald always says to me, 'If you get caught at mid-on or you get caught at first slip, you're still out, so play your natural game.'
Finch wasn't caught at mid-on or at first slip. He misjudged a slower ball and skied a ball to cover.
Toss lost, game won, mission not-quite accomplished. For now, at least, that will do.