Record-breaking batsman Aaron Finch was delighted his stunning innings helped Australia end a 200-day spell without an international win.
Finch’s remarkable 156, the highest score in a Twenty20 international, was the cornerstone of Australia’s 39-run win in the first Twenty20 international against England in Southampton, England, on Thursday.
The 26-year-old Victoria opener, who did not feature in the preceding 3-0 Ashes Test series loss to England, struck a record 14 sixes in his 63-ball innings as Australia made 248-6 — the second-highest Twenty20 international score — on a superb pitch for batting at the Ageas Bowl.
England responded with their own second-best Twenty20 score, 209-6, but even Joe Root’s unbeaten 90 failed to give them any real hope of victory.
Australia had not won a major international match since a 17-run one-day international victory over the West Indies in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 10, a sequence that encompassed a winless tour of India, an early exit from the Champions Trophy and the Ashes reverse.
“It’s a huge boost,” Finch said. “There have been a lot of new players come in, so there is a lot guys ready to go, so there hasn’t been a lot of baggage carried over from the Ashes.”
“Everyone is really confident,” he added ahead of the second and final match of the series in Durham, England, today.
As for his own innings, Finch said: “It was just one of those days where things hit the middle of the bat and things went my way. I’m still feeling pretty good to be honest.”
“It was a beautiful wicket and the outfield was lightning, so all you had to do was hit the gap early and you got maximum value,” he said. “It was a beautiful place to bat. I’m not sure the bowlers will be too happy about it, though.”
It looked as if England were set for a humiliating defeat as they lost early wickets in pursuit of a daunting total, but Root’s innings ensured the eventual margin was a lot narrower than had seemed likely in a match where the teams’ combined 457 runs was also a Twenty20 international record.
“It was special striking from Finch, to hit 14 sixes in an innings,” Broad said. “I think we can say we tried everything at him as well, he just played everything fantastically well. In Twenty20 cricket that can happen. He made it his day in quite spectacular fashion. Sometimes you just have to say that was a very special innings.”
Root suffered a cut to his mouth early in his innings after a Josh Hazlewood delivery evaded the grille of his helmet.
“It makes his knock even better,” Broad said. “He’s got over an inch laceration inside his mouth, which is quite a nasty one. I don’t know the treatment he’ll need, but he was spitting out quite a bit of blood.”
“It’s not the first blow he’s had to his face, I’m sure he’ll get over it,” added Broad, in what appeared to be a joking reference to the Birmingham bar-room attack on Root by Australia’s David Warner in June.
PAKISTAN V ZIMBABWE
An unbeaten 136 from Mohammad Hafeez laid the platform for Pakistan as they beat Zimbabwe by 90 runs in the second one-day international in Harare on Thursday.
A confident batting display, with just one half-chance offered to the home side, saw Hafeez anchor a high-scoring game as Pakistan made 299-4 off their 50 overs.
In reply, Zimbabwe fell well short, but only after a promising partnership between captain Brendan Taylor and Malcolm Waller was broken with another 100 runs required off the last 11 overs.
The three-match series is now tied 1-1 after Zimbabwe recorded their first win over Pakistan in 15 years on Tuesday.
The third and deciding match is also at the Harare Sports Club today.
Hafeez reached his second highest score in one-day cricket off 205 balls and was ably supported by Umar Amin (59) and a late cameo from the swashbuckling Shahid Afridi.
Pakistan upped their scoring rate considerably toward the end of the innings as Afridi smashed an unbeaten 39 off 35 balls, setting Zimbabwe the target of a run per ball to win.
“We wanted to win comprehensively, but we were looking at about 260, we never thought we’d get up near 300. The wicket was a little green at the start, but the conditions improved,” Hafeez said after accepting the man-of-the-match award.
A fiery opening spell from Mohammad Irfan stalled Zimbabwe’s openers initially, but Hamilton Masakadza (24) cut loose before a length ball from Junaid Khan bowled him.
Taylor’s application offered Zimbabwe hope of chasing down the formidable target as he combined first with Sean Williams (37) and then Waller.
However, as Zimbabwe reached 200 in the 39th over, Taylor, well set on 79, top-edged a high ball that Irfan plucked out of the air with one hand, sparking a lower-order collapse.