Unfashionable Finch teaching World Cup captains how to win
The win‚ Australia’s sixth in seven matches at the World Cup‚ took them to the top of the log
York — Somewhere in the depths of Australia’s bloodless conquest of England at Lord’s on Tuesday‚ Aaron Finch hared towards the boundary at the Nursery End in pursuit of a ball driven down the ground.
Hared is a kind word for it‚ and best applied to sinewy gazelles such as Mitchell Starc‚ Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada. Finch was‚ at best‚ hurtling as fast as his stocky‚ relatively unathletic frame could carry him.
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The ball won the race. Finch’s chase ended with a clumsy thud into the perimeter boards. His arm finished draped awkwardly over the top of the fencing; waving‚ not drowning.
Other Australians watching laughed with affection‚ and said a warm “Finchy!” in appreciation of his effort.
Australia’s captain had shared an opening stand of 123 with David Warner‚ and then gone to a century. He had‚ in Starc and Jason Beherendorff — who took 9/87 between them — a pair of rasping quicks. But he still had to round them up and point them in the right direction and ensure their fields were as they wanted them.
The win‚ Australia’s sixth in seven matches at the World Cup‚ took them to the top of the log and made them the first team to nail down a semifinal berth.
We expect nothing less from the Australians‚ but in the wake of the ball-tampering scandal and its fallout this team were not expected to be anything like their predecessors.
But Finch has helped upend that narrative by scoring two centuries and three half-centuries in the tournament and even taking a wicket‚ and he has led with the bloodyminded bullishness of Alan Border or Steve Waugh rather than Michael Clarke’s fancy pants ideas.
And yet people were laughing at him for his shortcomings.
This would not happen to Virat Kohli‚ Eoin Morgan or Faf du Plessis. Fine captains though they are‚ they are not to be chortled at.
The Aussies did not even bother sending Finch to the postmatch media conference‚ giving Beherendorff and his 5/44 the limelight instead.
“We’re still [trying to] play a perfect game‚ but we’re slowly getting better and better each time and today was another really good result for us‚” was the closest he came to not sounding like just another bland fast bowler.
Morgan could not avoid having to explain how his team had managed to fall short by 64 runs despite reeling in an Australia total apparently bound for 350 and more to a middling 285/7.
“Having us 26/3 obviously creates a bigger challenge‚” he said. “So to make those inroads‚ I thought they bowled well.”
Tuesday’s result followed another loss‚ to mediocre Sri Lanka‚ and is England’s third in seven games. That has dented confidence that they can reach the semis‚ especially with matches against India and New Zealand to come.
“Everything is within our control‚” Morgan said. “We just need to produce a performance worthy of winning either one of the next two games.
“I think both this game and the last‚ we struggled with the basics of what we call our batting mantra.
“You know‚ strong intent‚ building partnerships‚ and doing it in our own way‚ and we haven’t done those for long enough periods of the game in order to either chase down 230 or chase down 280‚ and that’s disappointing.”
Where does he go from here as the leader not only of the home side but of one of the teams originally favoured to win the World Cup?
“The majority of captains have success with a team when they lead from the front. So contributions from myself in the next two games might have an impact on the dressing room.
“Hopefully I can make a difference.”
Morgan looks invariably as if he is striving to make that difference‚ sometimes to an alarming degree. He is driven and purposeful‚ but he never seems happy. Kohli is a bearded fire on the field‚ a man to be defied at your peril. Du Plessis is more relaxed and not shy to smile‚ but there is no doubt he is in control of his team.
Finch? He’s too busy scoring hundreds‚ hatching a plan to win with not enough runs at his disposal‚ and crashing into the perimeter fencing to care what his leadership style looks like.
You could not imagine him talking about batting mantras‚ or unleashing primordial roars in celebration of taking wickets‚ or explaining in detail to the media the how and why of his thinking.
That is not to take a dip at how Morgan‚ Kohli and Du Plessis go about their business — the latter’s serious‚ informative approach is much appreciated here in the trenches of the media.
But all that really matters about a captain‚ especially a World Cup captain‚ is that he wins games.