Published On: Sun, Jan 14th, 2018

Finch century underpins Australia's 304 for 8

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Australia 8 for 304 (Finch 107, Stoinis 60, Marsh 50) v England
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A third MCG century against England for Aaron Finch and a recast middle order allowed Australia to climb to 8 for 304 after being sent in to bat and made to hop around early on by a fast and hostile Mark Wood in the opening ODI.

Having dumped Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade from the team in response to a pattern of middle-order failures last year, Australia’s selectors would have been pleased by the way Finch combined with Mitchell Marsh before Marcus Stoinis and Tim Paine played with verve in the closing overs.

Finch’s innings ensured Australia had a decent platform from which to launch in the closing overs. He was helped significantly by Marsh, who added to his growing list of thoughtful and adaptable innings for Australia this summer by helping stem the flow of early wickets in a measured century stand.

Aided by Paine, Stoinis then made the most of the remaining overs, using a combination of raw power and deft placement in a manner familiar to New Zealand and India when he was Australia’s stand-out player in a pair of series defeats. His 60 from 40 balls, including a pair of sixes and one extraordinary cut shot that fell centimetres short of a third, allowed the hosts to rattle past 300 in the final over and give England a steep chase.

Wood bowled swiftly and well with the new ball, notably making life difficult for David Warner, and leaving open the tantalising question of what a difference he might have made to England’s Ashes tilt. Adil Rashid was expensive, but produced a pair of teasing deliveries that accounted for Steven Smith and Marsh amid some looser offerings. Moeen Ali completed his overs with useful economy.

On a cold afternoon and with the pitch tinged with green, Morgan named a side featuring a recalled Alex Hales at No. 3, leaving Joe Root to slot in at No. 5 and Morgan at No. 5. Australia included Adam Zampa’s leg spin and also the West Australian AJ Tye, with Cameron White and Jhye Richardson left to await opportunities at a later point in the series. The allrounders Marsh and Stoinis were handed the Nos. 5 and 6 berths. This match is Jos Buttler’s 100th for England, and he was presented with a commemorative cap by James Anderson before play.

Instead of Anderson it was Wood who shared the new ball with Chris Woakes, and immediately made his presence felt with a series of fast, rising deliveries that challenged Finch and Warner in ways that had not been seen during the Ashes. Wood’s short run and piston-pumping action touched speeds up to 149kph, and Warner in particular was made to hop around before a lifter took the shoulder of his bat and looped gently to Root in the slips – how he would have loved to witness such a moment during the Tests.

Wood’s speed and trajectory caused further problems for Finch and the captain Smith, who evaded one lbw appeal for a delivery that beat him for pace, on a surface notably more grassy than the one prepared for the Boxing Day Test. However there was a lack of pressure coming from the other end, as Woakes offered up rather more pedestrian stuff that Finch in particular was able to capitalise upon off both front and back foot.

Smith, too, was quickly into stride against everyone other than Wood, but would slip up unexpectedly against the leg-spin variations of Rashid. The ball after leaving a wayward leg side wide, Smith offered an open face to the googly and the resulting thin edge was clasped by a juggling Buttler. When Travis Head chopped onto the stumps from the bowling of the serviceable Liam Plunkett, Australia were wobbling in a manner familiar across their poorly ODI record in 2017.

But as if to underline how this area had been recognised by Australia both in terms of selection and attitude, Finch and Marsh refused to panic, working the ball around patiently in recognition of the overs remaining, before signalling a phase of acceleration when Marsh hammered Moeen into the members enclosure beyond long on. Moeen missed a half-chance for a return catch off Finch, who was also at the centre of proceedings when England lost their lone review – Rashid pushing hastily for an lbw referral to a wrong’un comfortably sliding past leg stump.

Finch duly went to his third ODI century against England on this ground, and second in as many innings after the opening match of the 2015 World Cup, by swinging Rashid into the crowd with plenty of bottom hand. Both he and Marsh departed soon after, the latter deceived by a well-pitched slider from Rashid, but Stoinis and Paine maintained Australia’s momentum with another intelligent partnership in the closing overs, mixing hustle with heave to take the tally past 300.

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