Australia can’t do Finch’s brilliance justice in yet another disappointing loss

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Australia once again let slip a strong position to go 3-0 down yesterday in their five-match ODI series in India.

    Batting first, the tourists posted a below-par total of 6-293 on a pitch bulging with runs which offered zero help to any style of bowler.

    It was a disappointing finish considering Australia had been in a great position to make 350-plus thanks to a 154-run stand between Aaron Finch (124 from 125 balls) and Steve Smith (63 from 71 balls).

    At 1-224, with 73 balls remaining, Australia had the chance to post a truly monstrous total before a mixture of poor batting and fine bowling saw the tourists stumble.

    Aside from left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, who gave up 75 from his ten overs, all of the Indian bowlers were disciplined. This was particularly evident in the final dozen overs when they choked the Aussie run rate and drew some loose shots.

    Australia will, however, be delighted to see the manner in which Finch played. The burly opener missed the first two matches with injury and was fortunate to even be picked for this tour, having averaged 25 from his previous 26 ODIs.

    During that slump, Finch batted with the same impatience which he had shown during his unsuccessful start to ODI cricket. In the first 18 ODIs of his career, he averaged just 30, with this poor return due to his desire to bludgeon the bowlers from ball one.

    Then Finch adapted his game and began to build innings, seeking to attack only the bad balls until he was well set. This wiser approach bore fruit and, from late 2013 to early 2016, Finch made over 1500 runs at an average of 43, with six tons from just 38 matches.

    Australia's Aaron Finch leaves the field after scoring 5 runs during the second 20Twenty international cricket match between England and Australia at the Riverside Ground, Chester-Le-Street, northeast England, on August 31, 2013. England, after losing the toss, made 195 for five in the second and final Twenty20 international at Chester-le-Street. AFP PHOTO/ANDREW YATES


    This coincided with a strong run of performances by the Australian team, including a dominant victory at the 2015 World Cup. Over the past 18 months, Australia’s form has been patchy, with the lack of input from Finch a major factor.

    During that period he reverted back to his earlier, unsuccessful method of attempting to manufacture boundaries from good balls. That was the bad Finch.

    Yesterday, the good Finch returned. The batsman who is prepared to respect dangerous deliveries, to work the ones and twos until the bowler strays into his hitting zones. He crawled to 26 from 43 balls as the Indian seamers maintained a testing line and length.

    Finch stayed calm and suddenly the game opened up for him as it so often does for a batsman who bides their time. He got hold of leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, launching him for a sequence of boundaries, and batted with supreme confidence from then on.

    While one innings is far too small a sample size to declare that Finch is back to his best, that knock must surely have reminded the Victorian that when he remains composed he gets rewarded.

    Finch would have been bitterly disappointed with the manner in which Australia squandered his efforts. With short boundaries, an exceptionally swift outfield and a road of a pitch, Indore demanded a score of 330-plus against India, who are the strongest chasing team in ODI cricket.

    By the time India had cruised to 0-139 in the 22nd over, the match was all but over.

    Australia’s cause was not helped by a relatively straightforward catch turfed by new wicketkeeper Peter Handscomb. Matthew Wade’s replacement stretched low to his right for an unsuccessful one-handed effort and would have been relieved when the beneficiary, Rohit Sharma, was dismissed soon after for 71.

    A pair of quick wickets to Australian pacemen Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins provided slight hope but that was extinguished by a brilliant knock of 78 from 72 balls by blossoming all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

    Employing equal parts patience and aggression, Pandya killed off the Australian challenge.

    Australia’s attack again looked quite toothless without champion fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. In the end, however, it was the meek effort of the Australian middle order which set them on course for yet another ODI defeat.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco