Finch powers Australia to big total


Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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England were made to pay for dropping Aaron Finch before he scored as the Australia opener powered to a century in their World Cup opener in Melbourne.

Chris Woakes spilled the straightforward chance, in the very first over, to mark a scrappy England performance in the field as a team showing seven World Cup debutants appeared to suffer from a case of opening-night nerves in front of an MCG full house.

Finch took full advantage as he rattled along to his sixth one-day international century and, after Australia had been in some strife at 70 for three, combined in a 146-run partnership with stand-in skipper George Bailey.

Glenn Maxwell then provided the late hitting, as 105 were taken from the final 10 overs, to set a daunting target of 342 for nine – the highest total ever scored against England at a World Cup.

It could have been even worse for England but for Steven Finn claiming a hat-trick from the final three balls of the innings.

Maxwell and Brad Haddin were caught in the deep before Mitchell Johnson slapped Finn to mid-off, although the England quick’s celebrations were muted even as he returned figures of five for 71.

After electing to send Australia in to bat, skipper Eoin Morgan suggested that overnight rain in Melbourne might provide some early assistance for his seamers.

But for his side’s fielding, Morgan would have been rewarded with the wickets of the openers early.

Finch aimed a pull at James Anderson from his second ball but Woakes allowed the chance to burst through his hands before David Warner drove in the air but safely when Moeen Ali was late to react.

The signs they would be costly misses were soon apparent when Anderson and Stuart Broad’s next two overs collectively cost 33 runs and the opening stand reached 50 from 37 balls.

England fought back though, through Broad, who claimed two wickets in as many balls.

He first beat Warner with a cross-seam delivery that crashed into middle stump before finding just enough movement to catch Shane Watson’s edge in defence.

Broad delivered a yorker for his hat-trick ball, which Steven Smith kept out.

Woakes then claimed the in-form right-hander, dragging a drive onto his stumps, and suddenly England were starting to silence the home crowd.

But local boy Finch ensured they began to find full voice again as he and Bailey expertly steered Australia towards a sizeable total.

Finch reached his century from 102 balls when he flicked Finn to fine-leg, celebrating with a fist pump as he jumped high into the air.

He then brought up the century stand with Bailey, from 121 balls, when he flashed a drive past Finn in his follow through.

It was the closest England had come to removing the opener since Woakes’ early spill, although Finn hardly saw the ball race by such was the sweetness of stroke.

England’s fielding display increasingly became ragged as Finch and Bailey piled on the runs.

Gary Ballance, brought in for his first competitive game of the tour in place of Ravi Bopara, failed to fully commit to a catch in the outfield when Bailey miscued before James Taylor lobbed the ball back to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler when Finch appeared to be struggling to regain his ground.

After watching his team flounder, skipper Morgan produced a moment of brilliance in the field to finally remove Finch, with a direct-hit from mid-off, for 135 from 128 balls.

Bailey then dragged Finn on, after a steady 55, and England had at least managed to bring two new batsmen to the crease heading into the last 10 overs.

But Maxwell ensured Australia kept motoring forward, crashing his half-century from 30 balls, and also profiting from England’s wastefulness when Buttler failed to hold on over his head when the all-rounder was on 42.

He joined half-century stands with Mitchell Marsh and Brad Haddin in quick time, before falling in the middle of Finn’s late hat-trick, to a good diving Joe Root catch, for 66 from 40 balls.

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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