The teams encountered in Southampton for the first of the short-form matches and Finch broke the all-time record for the highest Twenty20 international score with 156. This time, one week after Australia completed their 5-0 Ashes clean sweep, Finch became the first Victorian to score an ODI hundred at the MCG as Australia cruised to a six-wicket win with 26 balls to spare.
If England hoped that a change of fortunes would accompany their change of format and clothing, they were mistaken. Things looked okay for a while. Alastair Cook won the toss and chose to bat, Gary Ballance and Eoin Morgan scored half-centuries to set up a competitive total of 7 for 269. But as the lights came on after the change of innings, it became apparent nobody was at home for England. A straightforward chance went down with Finch on 8 and nothing went England’s way from then on.
Finch and his opening partner David Warner put on 163 for the first wicket, a record opening stand for Australia in one-day internationals against England. Finch and Warner played their shots and made use of their luck. Finch used his muscle to score boundaries on both sides of the wicket and straight down the ground. His power was evident from the shot that brought up his fifty from 47 balls, a straight drive off Stokes that crunched into the stumps at the bowler’s end yet still had enough momentum to fly away past the diving mid-on for four. By the time their stand was finally broken by Joe Root, England’s only spinner as they had left out James Tredwell, the result was more or less a formality.
Warner struck five fours and one six, a strong down-the-ground effort off Jordan, and got to his half-century from 59 balls. He survived a run-out chance on 58 when a direct hit would have had him short, but on 65 he finally departed with a high slog off Root that was taken by Stokes at long-on. Shane Watson was bowled by Jordan for a second-ball duck but Finch and Michael Clarke ensured the chase remained on target with a 72-run stand.
Finch was given a standing ovation for his hundred, the first by a Victorian-born player in any international match at the MCG since Graeme Yallop in 1983, but on 121 he steered a catch to third man off Stokes. Clarke gave a catch up to mid-off of Tim Bresnan for 44, but George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell comfortably completed the win.
It could all have been so different had Ballance held on to a regulation chance when Finch, on 8, drove Chris Jordan uppishly to mid-off. Jordan was justifiably frustrated and was again twice in his next over, first when Alastair Cook moved second slip out and the next ball was edged by Finch straight through the new gap, and then next delivery when an lbw shout was turned down; England reviewed and Finch survived on a perilously tight umpire’s call.
Finch’s fortune continued in the next over when he chipped Boyd Rankin without control up towards square leg, where Ben Stokes dived but was just unable to reach the ball. If that wasn’t bad enough, Jordan’s next over featured yet another dropped chance, although this was a screamingly difficult one; Warner drove the ball straight back at Jordan, who stuck his left hand out but couldn’t make it stick. Five close calls in five overs. It was Australia’s night.
It became more so in the 14th over when Warner edged behind off Ben Stokes for 22. The wicketkeeper Jos Buttler claimed the catch and Warner was happy to take his word and walked off, but the umpires wanted to check the low-to-the ground take. The replays were typically open to interpretation, as most are with such two-dimensional views, but it seemed likely the catch was clean. The umpires erred on the side of caution, though, and Warner was called back from near the boundary’s edge.
Apart from calling correctly at the toss, the day had also started badly for England when Alastair Cook edged behind in the first over of the game. The bowler, Clint McKay, celebrated like a man playing for his place in the side, which after his struggles on the recent tour of India and having been dropped by the Melbourne Stars in Big Bash League last week. But his perfect line and length troubled England and reduced them to 2 for 22 when Joe Root was lbw for a ball wasting 3 off 23 balls.
Ian Bell looked comfortable before he was bowled trying for a slog sweep Xavier Doherty for 41 and that left Ballance and Morgan to put the innings back on track. Morgan’s brisk half-century was entertaining but he lost concentration on 50 and got out giving a catch to cover off Maxwell, and Ballance played some classy strokes in his 79 but missed the chance of a hundred when he guided a catch to third man off McKay (3 for 44) late in the innings. Stokes and Ravi Bopara made contributions, Buttler’s 34 not out and an unbeaten 16 from Bresnan pushed the total up to 7 for 269.
Player of the match: Aaron Finch
Australia: 270/4 (Finch 121, Warner 65) beat England: 269/7 (Ballance 79, Morgan 50, McKay 3-44) by 6 wickets