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ICC World Cup 2019: Aaron Finch, Mitchell Starc fire Australia to 87-run win over Sri Lanka

Aaron Finch has proved that Australia’s batting is more than about Steve Smith and David Warner.

cricket Updated: Jun 16, 2019 01:37 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
ICC World Cup 2019,Aaron Finch,Mitchell Starc
Australia skipper Aaron Finch.(AP)

For exactly 93 deliveries, Sri Lanka turned back the clock to an era they were an irrepressible force with the bat. Pinch hitting, as it was known when Mark Greatbatch first wowed audiences in the 1992 World Cup, took on a completely different form four years later as Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana went on to scrap a few conventions with their maverick batting. It sparked Sri Lanka’s renaissance, possibly never to be repeated till Kusal Perera and Dimuth Karunaratne decided to have some fun on Saturday. ((ICC World Cup 2019: Full Coverage))

Australia’s pride took a beating. Fielders stayed rooted to their spots as Sri Lanka’s openers flayed their bowling to raise 100 in 76 deliveries. Aaron Finch cut a worried figure, trying to be as defensive as possible but fielding restrictions were still in play. The Oval— stacked with a lot of Sri Lankans, few Englishmen and fewer Australians—rejoiced though. This was the first match Sri Lanka got to play after 10 days. And with news of Sri Lanka filing an official complaint over quality of pitches and logistics provided to them, their batsmen had to prove it was not a case of grapes gone sour.

Also Read: Sri Lanka vs Australia Highlights, ICC World Cup 2019: As it happened

It was still a tall ask despite Sri Lanka’s aggressive start. To chase 334 on a fairly even pitch required multiple big partnerships. Sri Lanka just had one—an opening partnership of 115 after Kusal tried to play across to Mitchell Starc. Australia had two massive stands of 80 and 173 involving Steve Smith and David Warner with captain Aaron Finch being the common batsman with a classy 153, the highest by an Australia captain in a World Cup.

Finch may not probably figure too high on the list of Australian batting greats. He doesn’t have the greatest defence, has the tendency to fall over to the incoming delivery making him a candidate ripe for leg-before appeals and rarely exudes the charm that is associated with a Steve Smith or Ricky Ponting. Essentially a middle-order bat turned opener who went on to make a name in Twenty20s, Finch is also an afterthought in the other formats. He made his Test debut only nine months back— in the eighth year of his international career—and made his ODI debut in 2013.

Captaincy too came to Finch out of crisis. Tim Paine was plucked out of wilderness and put in charge of the Test and ODI teams till Australia realised their limited overs’ reputation was taking a massive stick. With Smith serving an international ban, it had to be finally Finch. Runs were required though to shore up his confidence, after making just one fifty in 12 matches till the series against Pakistan where Finch had scores of 116, 153*, 90, 39, 53.

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Finch has continued in the same vein this World Cup as well, proving Australia’s batting is more than about Smith and Warner. He survived a review, was scratchy at first but the ball found the middle of his bat more often. Warner couldn’t capitalise on the start but Finch had found a different gear by the time the opening partnership was broken. He took on off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva, hitting him for two consecutive sixes down the ground. This was after he had taken back-to-back boundaries off Lasith Malinga and Thisara Perera.

With Smith too hitting the ground running, Australia motored to 250 in the 41st over. Twice Finch had missed out on a hundred before this in the World Cup. Not here though as he brought it up with a huge six over long-off. He went on to bat till the 43rd over. Karunaratne, dismissed three short of his century, lasted 32.1 overs. Sri Lanka lost the match there. All the adrenaline provided in those initial overs made for a great highlights package, not a properly planned chase.

First Published: Jun 15, 2019 23:15 IST