Image courtesy of: The Age
It was raining sixes all night thanks to Finch
After suffering a 3-0 thrashing in the Ashes series, Australia would have started pondering over whether they were going to triumph over England even once throughout the limited overs series.
Their prayers were answered by opening batsman Aaron Finch, who smashed a record 156 to lead Australia to a 39-run win over their arch-rivals.
Finch’s 156 is now the highest score made by any batsman in Twenty20 Internationals, with the previous holder being New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Brendon McCullum, who hammered 123 against Bangladesh during the 2012 World Twenty20.
England captain Stuart Broad won the toss and chose to bowl first as he fancied his chances of chasing a target with all the big-hitters in the squad.
Broad’s decision paid off right away as he dismissed opener David Warner for just one run.
Finch and Shaun Marsh ensured Australia did not suffer yet another collapse as they registered a 114-run partnership, during which Finch brought up his half-century, at a blazing run rate of 12.43 before Marsh was caught out off the bowling of Danny Briggs for 28.
But, the entertainment did not stop there as Finch and Shane Watson recorded a 101-run partnership, during which Finch surged past the century and 150 mark, at a trailblazing run rate of 14.78.
Finch’s blistering innings finally came to an end on 156, which came off just 63 deliveries and included 11 boundaries and a record 14 sixes.
Watson scored 37 off 16 balls, which included four boundaries and two maximums, as Australia eventually finished on an outstanding 248 at the end of their 20 overs.
Jade Dernbach was the pick of England’s bowlers with three wickets, while Broad, Briggs and Steven Finn all snapped up one wicket apiece.
Chasing a mammoth total of 249 to win, England got off to a horrid start as their top four batsmen were back in the pavilion with just 42 runs on the board.
Just as England were looking in all sorts of trouble, Joe Root and Ravi Bopara brought them back into contention with a 95-run partnership, during which Root registered his half-century, before Bopara was caught out off the bowling of Watson for 45 off 29 deliveries, which included four boundaries and a six.
Jos Buttler joined Root at the crease and the fireworks continued, much to the delight of the Southampton crowd, as the pair put together a 66-run partnership at a scorching run rate of 11.31 before Buttler was clean bowled by James Faulkner for 27.
Root remained unbeaten on 90 off 49 balls, which included 13 boundaries and a six, as England failed to conquer the behemoth total set by Australia.
Australia’s pace duo of Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood picked up two wickets apiece, while Watson and Faulkner chipped in with one wicket each.
Broad was extremely disappointed to have let Australia score an ODI total in a Twenty20 game, but nonetheless praised Finch for his sparkling innings.
“We’re really disappointed that we lost but full credit has to go to the way Australia batted, Finch especially,” Broad said. “We tried everything but he was unstoppable, he hit 14 sixes, it was incredible. His first ball went for six. We knew it was going to be a good wicket but not quite that good. The batsmen want to pitch a tent up here and the bowlers want to get on the flight to Durham. Hopefully we get the same excitement up there, though. Joe did incredibly well in his first international T20 innings, it’s what we’ve come to expect.”
Australia skipper George Bailey was at a loss of words to describe Finch’s incredible innings, and said: “I think the only innings I’ve seen like [Finch’s] was Chris Gayle in the IPL. When he hits sixes he tries to hit them 40 rows back… We’ve found that Watto is so good at playing spin bowling, with a view to the next World T20, we can have him come in at four and take them out. We knew it was going to be a really good wicket and would be a hard ground to defend. There are always a few things to work on, though. I thought we bowled back of a length a bit more, and changed things up. We were a bit short to Root, who likes it there. Fawad Ahmed’s last over was nice, his first game, big occasion but he go through it okay.”
Finch was the obvious choice when it came to the Man of the Match award, and he said: “It’s good to come here from the Australia A side and play some good cricket. It was one of those days, not easy for the quicks, no spin, so I managed to get it away.”