Saturday 16 December 2017

Finch hits century as England suffer through familiar tour script

Aaron Finch of Australia celebrates his century
Aaron Finch of Australia celebrates his century
A ball takes an edge of England's Alastair Cook's bat

Nick Hoult

It was fancy dress day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but England wore the same old beaten look as Australia eased to a six-wicket win in the first one-day international.

Dropped catches, misfields and inconsistent bowling again cost England, who are carrying too many players shellshocked from the Ashes for the enthusiastic reinforcements to lift.

Alastair Cook and Joe Root's troubles continued, Ian Bell flattered to deceive again, Boyd Rankin was timid with the new ball while even Gary Ballance marred his half-century by dropping a straightforward catch off century-maker Aaron Finch.

Australia relied on top-order hitters to cruise to their target with 26 balls to spare. They were led by Finch, who hit 121 after being dropped on eight.

Ballance did enough to suggest he could fill the void in the one-day team left by Jonathan Trott, scoring 79 off 96 balls, and Eoin Morgan hit a bright half-century, but even though England made a total higher than any first-innings score in the Ashes series, it felt below par.

It fell to Ballance to play the anchor role. He looked assured if not free-flowing, and hit strongly to leg, picking up singles through extra cover to reach a half-century off 69 balls, but just as England were ready to attack in the final 10 overs, they lost him, caught by Xavier Doherty.

Jos Buttler is at eight to find the gaps on the fence created by the new rule which allows only four fielders outside the inner circle in the last 10 overs, and he did his job, adding 41 with Tim Bresnan to give England a total that would probably have been par with Stuart Broad in the side.

On Australian pitches, with different balls at either end, early wickets are key when defending, but England were punished for errors with Cook holding his head in his hands when Ballance fluffed the chance off Finch.

Cook soon had himself to blame for another missed chance. With Finch hitting boundaries, the captain moved the fielder out of second slip to plug a gap in the offside. The inevitable happened.

Next ball Chris Jordan found Finch's edge but it whistled through second slip at catchable height. A ball later, Jordan nipped one back and England went for the lbw review but Finch survived by a fraction.

Jordan could have taken his first wicket three times over, but new-ball partner Rankin was poor.

Even when England took a wicket they had it snatched away. David Warner was on 22 when he tried to glide a ball down to third man, but top-edged a short ball off Ben Stokes and Buttler claimed a low catch. Television always foreshortens the image making good catches dubious and Warner was called back.

He made England pay with a half-century before holing out and Jordan bowled Shane Watson for a duck, but Finch coasted to a century to seal it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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