Aaron Finch and David Warner’s record-breaking 258-run unbeaten stand against India this week underlined their status as statistically Australia’s greatest ever ODI opening combination.
Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden, Gilchrist and Mark Waugh, Waugh and Mark Taylor, David Boon and Geoff Marsh – none of them match the 52.58-run average stand by Finch and Warner.
Not even the most famous opening combinations in ODI history – Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes (5206 runs at 52.58), Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly (8227 at 47.55), Gilchrist and Hayden (5409 runs at 47.44), Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan (4766 runs at 44.54), Gilchrist and Waugh (3992 runs at 41.58) – have a better average than Warner and Finch’s 52.58 (3050 runs).
Granted, Warner and Finch cannot go close to matching the longevity of some of these other partnerships, in particular Tendulkar and Ganguly, who are arguably the finest ODI opening pair the game has seen.
Then there’s the current most prolific ODI opening combo – England’s Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, who average 63.18, albeit from just 37 innings.
But the sizzling recent ODI form of Warner and Finch suggests they are a chance to go on to pass Hayden and Gilchrist as Australia’s highest-scoring opening pair.
At their current partnership average, Finch and Warner would draw level with that legendary pair after another 45 innings, which would take them another two-and-a-half to three years to complete.
So if they continue as Australia’s openers until the next World Cup, as Warner yesterday stated they hope to, they should overtake Hayden and Gilchrist.
Similar to Hayden and Gilchrist, Warner and Finch complement each other beautifully. They are a very well balanced combination and clearly have a fine understanding of each other’s game. So often, when one of them starts their innings slowly, searching for rhythm, the other will up the ante to prevent them from facing scoreboard pressure.
This was evident in Mumbai in the first ODI against India. Warner was scratchy early in his knock, dawdling to six from 16 balls. At the other end, Finch took the initiative, motoring to 27 from 21 balls.
Unlike Bairstow and Roy, who typically seek to blaze in tandem from ball one, Finch and Warner tend to take turns being the attacker. This has worked very well for them.
In Mumbai, after Warner’s slow start and Finch’s aggressive beginning, they swapped roles. Warner’s final 122 runs came at a scorching strike rate of 124. Meanwhile, Finch dialed backed his aggression from that point on, with his final 83 runs coming at a sedate strike rate of 89.
Rarely do Finch and Warner get caught trying to match each other’s strike rates. If one catches fire the other is content to operate in their slipstream.
The bedrock of their combination, though, is their sensational running between wickets. By scampering quick singles even after he passed 300 in the recent Test against Pakistan, Warner showed his dedication to this underrated facet of cricket.
He is one of the best and most disciplined runners between wickets I’ve ever seen. Finch, meanwhile, may look like a portly chap but he his very swift between the crease lines and nearly matches Warner in this area.
In tandem they place enormous pressure on opposite fielders. They steal ones that shouldn’t be there, turn ones into twos, convert twos into threes and make it difficult for the bowlers to join together dot balls.
Despite both being 33 years old, Warner and Finch move like youngsters. Given their fitness and form, it is not fanciful to think they could still be opening for Australia at the next World Cup in India in three years from now, as Warner flagged yesterday.
Warner’s long-term ODI form is incredible – in the past five years he has piled up 3579 runs at 60. He is the best ODI opener in the world after Rohit Sharma. Finch is also enjoying an extended run of hot form, with 2081 runs at 55 in his last 40 matches.
What has been most impressive about Finch in that period is his phenomenal dominance in Asia, with 961 runs at 81. His vast experience and success in Asia, and his elite play against spin, makes him an attractive prospect for the next World Cup in India, should he maintain solid form that long.
Warner, too, is a beast away from home and elite in Asia. Over the past five years in ODIs he’s averaged 61 overseas and 51 in Asia.
Of course, that World Cup remains a long way away. First and foremost, Warner and Finch need to help Australia seal their third straight ODI series win in Asia by winning one of the next two matches in India.
Then they need to maintain their form to drive Australia up the ODI rankings. With a series win here they can leapfrog New Zealand into third spot, and then begin to strongly challenge India’s second ranking by winning their three-match series in South Africa next month.
Finch and Warner are at the core of Australia’s resurgence in ODIs.