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    Finch ton continues Australia dominance

    Opener hits 121 to help chase down England’s 269 for 7 with 26 balls to spare in first ODI
    Aaron Finch became the first Victorian to score a One-Day International century at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, as Australia beat England by six wickets in the first ODI on Sunday (January 12). Finch was part of a 163-run opening stand with David Warner, setting the base for Australia’s win in the first of a five-match series after England had put on 269 for 7.
    Finch’s 121 was studded with 12 fours and he stitched an important 72-run partnership with Michael Clarke for the third wicket after Australia lost Warner and Shane Watson in the space of two runs.
    After putting Australia in the driver's seat, Finch and Clarke got out within nine balls of each other, leaving George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell to take Australia home in 45.4 overs, with 26 balls to spare.
    Finch was brutal in his innings, scoring all around the ground with immaculate ease, and made the England attack look pedestrian. England, though, had a chance in the fourth over when Finch played an uppish drive off Chris Jordan to mid-off but Gary Ballance, whose 79 was the highest score in England’s innings, dropped a sitter.
    In Jordan’s next over, Finch edged a length delivery but the ball went to the third-man fence through the vacant second slip region, and off the very next ball he survived a close lbw shout as England lost its review early.
    Jordan was the best England bowler, but off the last ball of the mandatory Power Play overs, Warner hit him straight back over his head for the first six of the innings as the openers built their fortress with consummate ease. That England was poor with its ground fielding did not help its cause either.
    Nothing epitomised Australia’s opening pair’s display of powerful strokes more than the straight drive that brought Finch’s half-century. It ricocheted off the stumps at the bowling end but still went to the long-on fence.
    With Australia on 82, Jos Buttler, the wicketkeeper, lapped up a low catch off Warner. However, after television replays were sought by the on field umpires, the decision was reversed – the ball had bounced just before Buttler completed the catch – and Warner, who by then was on the edge of the boundary, ran back to take fresh guard.
    Warner reached 65 before Ben Stokes caught him at long-on off Joe Root. Two runs later, Jordan uprooted Shane Watson’s stumps, but Finch and Clarke, who helped himself to an attractive 43 on his return to limited overs cricket, ensured there was no dramatic collapse.
    Stokes had Finch caught at third man in the 40th over and Tim Bresnan dismissed Clarke after that, but those wickets came a bit too late in the day for England.
    Earlier, after being asked to field, Australia’s bowlers made a good start as Alastair Cook edged the fourth ball of the day to give Clint McKay the first of three wickets. Not long after that, Root, who stayed for 23 balls without ever looking comfortable, was trapped leg before.
    Ian Bell tried to repair the damage with a steady innings of 41 but failed to connect with an arm-ball from Xavier Doherty and was bowled.
    That brought Ballance and Eoin Morgan together with England 62 for 3 in the 18th over, and the duo put on 83 runs for the fourth wicket in just 85 balls to put the innings back on track.
    Ballance had represented Zimbabwe in the 2006 Under-19 World Cup at the age of 16, but with the help of Dave Houghton, who is married to one of his relatives, he shifted his cricketing base to England, keeping his long-term prospects in mind. Playing his second ODI, he did his prospects no harm.
    Temperament was the key feature of Ballance’s innings. Equipped with a solid technique and the ability to soak pressure, he did not get bogged down by the early loss of three wickets and kept the scoreboard ticking. He found an able partner in Morgan, who made a 47-ball 50 and was chiefly responsible for shifting the momentum in England’s innings.
    Maxwell broke the partnership when Morgan failed to clear the infield and was caught by Nathan Coulter-Nile at cover.
    Ravi Bopara was caught behind, trying to upper-cut Coulter-Nile and Stokes, the shining light in England’s disastrous Ashes campaign, lost his stumps to James Faulkner against the run of play for a 20-ball 21.
    Ballance added 22 quick runs with Buttler, who has been in Australia for over a month, playing for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League, before he was caught by Doherty, who ran forward to take the chance, at third man off McKay. Doherty made up for dropping a similar chance two balls earlier.
    Buttler remained unbeaten on 34 and added 41 runs off 26 balls for the eighth wicket with Tim Bresnan to take England to a competitive total, but that was not enough to challenge Finch.

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