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Aaron Finch stayed cool, popping bubble gum and punching runs, as England imploded around him at the MCG on Sunday. The batting prodigy from Colac became the first Victorian to score a one-day international century at the MCG, and suggested he will back there as part of a destructive opening combination at next year's World Cup.
Everyone knew Finch was one of the best short-form batsmen in the country but his 121 from 128 balls to lead Australia to a crushing victory in the first ODI of the summer was not all about muscle. He capitalised on England's many mistakes - he was dropped on 8 by Gary Ballance - and paced his innings beautifully until he was caught at third man in the 40th over. His shot of the night was not a meaty pull but a glorious cover drive off fast bowler Chris Jordan, followed up with a scamper for two with his speedier batting partner, Michael Clarke.
Finch now has two centuries and two 50s from his first 19 ODIs and the makings of a potent opening partnership with David Warner. Their stand of 163 on Sunday was a record for Australia against England and caused the tourists to fall apart as they failed to defend a total of 269.
Who would have thought it possible to go lower than a five-nil Ashes defeat? England found a way in the first one-dayer, with bad selections, bad fielding and bad luck allowing the Australians to romp to a six-wicket win with 4.2 overs to spare.
The biggest controversy of the night surrounded a contentious catch in the 14th over when Warner was on 22. The Australian appeared to accept wicketkeeper Jos Buttler's word that an edge had carried into his gloves and walked towards the dressing room. But when the umpires decided to check with the TV official, Warner waited by the boundary line and ended up being called back when the video evidence did not conclusively show that the ball had carried.
Video footage rarely provides a definitive answer on low catches, and the incident sparked a fierce argument between Australian and English commentators. Michael Slater insisted the right decision had been made, while David Gower said the third umpire had been too cautious.
If the wheels were not already off for England, they are now. The selectors left out spinner James Tredwell, leaving little variety in the attack. "England are nowhere, the team they have selected will not win.. #horrorselection," tweeted former England allrounder Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Alastair Cook's lamentable tour continued when he was caught behind off Clint Mckay in the first over of the match for four. And the shambolic fielding continued. Apart from Ballance's simple miss at mid-off, Jordan put down a return catch from Warner on 9 and Tim Bresnan committed an embarrassing misfield on the fine leg boundary. Finch could have been caught in the slips off Jordan, had the second slip not been taken out, and next ball England wasted its only DRS review.
Warner departed for 65 trying to hit part-time spinner Joe Root out of the ground, and Clarke made a brisk 43. No.3 Shane Watson, who looked tired in bowling five wicketless overs and will be rested for the next game in Brisbane, was bowled by Jordan for a duck.
But George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell guided Australia to the target, and England's performance suggested another five-nil result is not beyond the realms of possiblity.
Earlier, Zimbabwe-born Ballance top scored for England with 79 while Irishman Eoin Morgan made a fast 50 to push the tourists to a competitive total.
And Mckay justified the faith of his captain, who described him as Australia's "silent assassin", with a damaging new ball spell and figures of 3-44.
Just four days after he was dropped by his Twenty20 team, the Melbourne Stars, Mckay returned to form on his home ground.
Picked ahead of James Pattinson in an Australian attack missing the firepower of Mitchell Johnson (rested), he dismissed Root lbw for a painstaking 3 from 23 balls and eventually had Ballance caught in the deep.
A COOK c Haddin b McKay 4
I BELL b Doherty 41
J ROOT lbw b McKay 3
G BALLANCE c Doherty b McKay 79
E MORGAN c Coulter-Nile b Maxwell 50
R BOPARA c Haddin b Coulter-Nile 17
B STOKES b Faulkner 21
J BUTTLER not out 34
T BRESNAN not out 16
Sundries (1lb, 3w) 4
Total (7 wkts - 50 overs) 269
Fall of wickets: 4 (Cook), 22 (Root), 62 (Bell), 145 (Morgan), 173 (Bopara), 206 (Stokes), 228 (Ballance)
Bowling: C McKay 10-0-44-3 (1w), N Coulter-Nile 10-0-51-1 (1w), G Maxwell 8-0-40-1, X Doherty 7-0-29-1, J Faulkner 10-0-68-1 (1w), S Watson 5-0-36-0.
A FINCH c Ballance b Stokes 121
D WARNER c Stokes b Root 65
S WATSON b Jordan 0
M CLARKE c Cook b Bresnan 43
G BAILEY not out 17
G MAXWELL not out 8
Sundries (6lb, 10w) 16
Total (4 wkts - 45.4 overs) 270
Fall of wickets: 163 (Warner), 165 (Watson), 237 (Finch), 247 (Clarke)
Bowling: B Rankin 8-0-53-0 (2w), C Jordan 10-0-50-1 (5w), T Bresnan 9.4-0-56-1, B Stokes 10-0-64-1 (1w), R Bopara 6-0-30-0, J Root 2-0-11-1 (2w)
Result: Australia won by 6 wickets
Man of the Match: Aaron Finch (Australia)
Series: Australia leads five-match series 1-0.
- The Age
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