On 23 April 2013, Aaron Finch may well have hated cricket. He was the captain of Pune Warriors India; his bowlers bowled badly, the pitch was flat, the boundaries were small and his side came up against the innings of Chris Gayle’s life.
Words can barely do justice to the slaughter Gayle imposed that day in Bangalore and it was Finch, the captain with the power to do something, that was left powerless in the wake of the Jamaican’s wrath.
Finch could’ve had Wasim, Waqar, Warne and Murali at his disposal and still struggled to stem the flow of runs. Finch could’ve had 54 fielders and still not stopped him. Finch’s bowlers could’ve bowled a grenade and Gayle would still have hit it for six.
Finch was a puppet master who had his strings cut; a captain of boat that had no sails.
On that day in April, fielders became spectators and spectators became fielders. On that day in April, cricket wasn’t fair to Aaron Finch.
On 29 August 2013, Stuart Broad may well have hated cricket. He was the captain of England; his bowlers bowled badly, the pitch was flat, the boundaries were small and his side came up against the innings of Aaron Finch’s life.
Indeed, it was a warming undercurrent of Finch’s astounding blitzkrieg at the Ageas Bowl yesterday, that he, the ultimate victim of Gayle’s very own blitzkrieg just months earlier was able to re-enact such mayhem.
Finch’s innings, albeit less monstrous and historic than Gayle’s, was arguably more important.
For after 200 days, 2 T20s, 3 ODIs and 9 Test matches, Australia finally ended their winless streak in international cricket. Losing, as is winning, is a habit—and Australia were beginning to make a convention of that habit. So much so that Charlie Sheen would’ve been more likely to associate himself with the San Marino football team than Australia’s cricket team.
Perhaps, therefore, it was always going to take something special; something extraordinary, to haul them out of their rut and back to winning ways. And yesterday at the Ageas Bowl, Finch did just that.
His 156 runs off just 63 balls was not merely an innings of unadulterated brilliance, but also one that finally gave his team and its fans a semblance of joy in amongst a world of pain.
Finch got off the mark, passed 50, passed 100, passed Brendon McCullum’s record 123 and passed 150 all with sixes. For four balls Finch was one hit away from breaking the record for the fastest T20I hundred ever, and indeed, it’s a shame that he didn’t do so, for this was an innings far more deserving of such an accolade than Richard Levi’s slogathon on a postage stamp last year.
The England bowling attack, although certainly not the world’s most potent in the shortest format, possessed genuine quality. Yet Finch’s still head, solid base and destructive power rendered such quality useless. The nonchalance with which he slammed Joe Root’s sole over for 27 was alarming. The brutality with which he clattered Steven Finn for three fours in four balls was frightening.
With his hulking, muscular frame and space garb batting gear, Finch is emblematic of Australia’s T20 generation and it feels appropriate therefore that he was the first Australian to reach three figures in T20 internationals.
His success in the Big Bash League has seen him signed by three Indian Premier League franchises and a Caribbean Premier League team, and while he’s had success it’s hard to shake the feeling that he’s been performing within his potential. One cannot help but sense that at 26 years of age, this innings may well have woken a dormant T20 superstar from his slumber.
Cricket Australia’s Twitter feed certainly couldn’t resist the hyperbole that often accompanies such an innings, asking “Is that the best innings you’ve ever seen?”
In T20 cricket it may well be for some, but Finch himself will certainly have seen one innings that was better—an innings that before yesterday he would have looked back upon with a wince. Now at least, he can look back with a wry smile.