Australia 248 for 6 (Finch 156) beat England 209 for 6 (Root 90*) by 39 runs
Whether Australia can produce young batsmen who are able to occupy the crease in Test cricket remains up for debate. That they can produce batsmen who give it an almighty thump there is no doubt. Aaron Finch, the 26-year-old Victorian, ransacked England’s bowling with an eye-popping world record 156 as Australia secured their first victory in any format for 200 days.
It was a ferocious display of hitting from Finch, who had six previous T20 caps, as he tore England’s attack to shreds with a brutal display, in the process going well past Brendon McCullum’s 123 as the highest score in an international Twenty20. Australia’s eventual 248 for 6 was the second-highest total in a T20 international – and the highest in a match involving two Test nations – only Sri Lanka’s 260 against Kenya was out of reach and for a while it appeared they may cross that landmark too.
A couple of weeks ago in the Friends Life t20 quarter-final there was 200-plays-200 match and the consistency of the one-day pitches at the Ageas Bowl deserves much praise – 457 runs in 40 overs is value for money, even if to watch such a boundary-fest all the time would dull the senses. But to chase 249 would have bordered on miracle territory. England, not surprisingly, could not get close – although did pass 200 for only the fourth time in a T20 – despite Joe Root’s entertaining 90 off 49 balls. Tellingly, perhaps, England could only manage five sixes to Australia’s 18.
Fourteen of those came off Finch’s bat, another of the records that he broke during the onslaught. He began with a six first ball, picked up effortlessly off Steven Finn, and it was a theme that would continue throughout. Each of Finch’s landmarks came up with a six; his half-century, from 26 balls; his hundred, off 47, beating McCullum’s record, and his 150.
He was on track to beat Richard Levi’s 45-ball hundred against New Zealand, in Hamilton, as the fastest on the international stage but after reducing himself to a couple of singles had to settle for second spot when he launched his 47th delivery, from Stuart Broad, for another six. He was the first Australian to make a Twenty20 international hundred and it took him just 13 more deliveries to power past 150. By then, it had long since stopped being an even contest.
The bowlers had no answers, although not for the first time there was an absence of yorkers – anything fractionally off target was dispatched over the boundaries with strength, timing and, occasionally, some finesse; although this was not an innings of deft touch and placement. Finch’s sixes over the off side, one struck as he slid outside leg stump, were perhaps the most breathtaking.
Picking through the wreckage of England’s figures may seem a rather pointless task, but there are a couple of overs that stand out. Root’s only over cost 27 – he made the mistake of conceding a single to Shaun Marsh first ball – and Danny Briggs, on his home ground, was taken for 23 in his last, all by Finch. Following on from Martin Guptill’s huge innings in the one-day international here earlier in the season, this is not a favourite ground for England at the moment.
The only England bowler to have an economy rate in single figures was Jade Dernbach, which itself will bring surprise from many. He finally removed Finch and also dumbfounded Shane Watson with a back-of-the-hand slower ball after his 37 off 16 balls, in a stand of 99 in seven overs, had gone almost unnoticed.
Finch and Marsh had added 114 in nine overs for the second wicket having come together early following David Warner’s bizarre dismissal. Swinging with all his power, he top edged Broad’s second ball and, in the process, lost his bat which flew towards short fine-leg while Jos Buttler settled under the catch. Warner then had to walk back to collect his bat from an obliging England player who had picked it up. It was the high point of the innings for England.
But the crowd had another moment to savour. The opening over of the chase, bowled by the much-missed (at least by the England supporters) Mitchell Johnson, cost 17 and included two wides and three boundaries. Johnson, though, recovered from those early problems by trapping Michael Lumb lbw and then having Eoin Morgan caught at point while he touched 93mph on the speed gun.
But Josh Hazlewood created the most physical damage. Root needed treatment for a cut lip after a short ball from Hazlewood squeezed between his peak and grille. Warner, who had come close to inflicting something similar earlier in the tour, was the first Australian to go up to Root who, after a few minutes, did not seem overly troubled by the blow as he notched a 29-ball fifty and he later took 16 off Johnson’s last over much to the joy of the fans who stayed on to the bitter end.
In the seventh over there was also a significant moment. Fawad Ahmed, the legspinner, delivered his first international over. It went for 10 and his four overs ended up costing 43. It was not really an evening to be a spinner. His story remains a remarkable one but, for one night at least, it was trumped.