Cricket World Cup 2019: With renewed confidence, Aaron Finch underlines his batting supremacy
Aaron Finch celebrates his 14th ODI hundred in Australia's 87-run win. © AFP

LONDON: One of the most humanising aspects of batting is when a cricketer gets to three figures. A big smile, a leap in the air, arms raised aloft, a look skywards, a congratulatory bear hug with the guy at the other end or a red-faced roar – to see some variation of emotions released is what fans love to eat up.

The David Warner leap. The Shikhar Dhawan eagle spread. The Virat Kohli expletive … oh, that’s stopped, hasn’t it? Right, moving on.

On Saturday at Kennington Oval, Aaron Finch moved from 95 to 101 with a lofted six over long-off. Off came his helmet, which he kissed, and then up went his arms to soak in the applause from a near-full stadium. He pointed his bat towards the Australian dressing room, which stood as one in appreciation of Finch’s 14th ODI hundred.

For Finch, the emotion after scoring 153 off 132 balls to set up Australia’s 87-run win over Sri Lanka in match 20 of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Kennington Oval on Saturday was, well, ho-hum.

“It was all right, yeah,” he said with a shrug of the shoulders, cuing chuckles amid the media gathered for the post-match press conference.

But of course he was kidding, surely?

“It’s nice. It’s always nice to get 100 and contribute to a win,” said Finch when pressed to share his emotions. “Honestly, it doesn’t really bother me if I get 99 or 100. It doesn’t make a huge amount of difference to me personally. As long as you get yourself in a position to help the team win, that’s what I’m more worried about. Obviously that’s better than getting none, don’t get me wrong. It was nice to get 100. It just doesn’t … winning the game is far more important than getting 100, a personal milestone.”

SCORECARD: AUSTRALIA vs SRI LANKA, KENNINGTON OVAL

Win Australia did, to move to the top of the World Cup points table. And it was no coincidence that the man who really set up the win was Finch, who earlier this year was at the heart of the Australian cricket team’s remarkable resurgence as an ODI force.

After a lean run for form during which he went 21 innings without a half-century in limited-overs cricket, Finch struck form during Australia’s tour of India earlier this year in March when he made 93 in the third ODI. Australia won that match, and then went from being 0-2 down to beat India 3-2.

(ALSO READ: Sri Lanka refuse to attend post-match press conference)

Finch was then named Man of the Series in the 5-0 ODI sweep of Pakistan after scoring 451 runs at an average of 112.75, with two centuries and two fifties, in the UAE. In the ongoing World Cup, Finch has scores of 66, 6, 32, 86 and now 153 and has the most sixes (14) of the tournament. His Australian team are now top of the pile, and looking like contenders to win the World Cup.

Aaron Finch World Cup
Aaron Finch soaks in his 14th ODI century, and first as World Cup captain. © AFP

Finch, like all good ODI batsman, proved against Sri Lanka that if he can sustain is aggression for a lengthy period, a big innings is there for the taking. He set the pace for Australia’s win on a pitch that a day before wore a tinge of green, but which on match day may as well have been spray-paint. Finch dominated an opening stand of 80 with Warner, setting the tone with some thumped drives off Sri Lanka’s new-ball bowlers.

Thisara Perera came on to bowl the tenth over and Finch slapped him for two fours with a ferocity that may have sent a shudder down Dimuth Karunaratne’s spine. Dhananjaya de Silva bowled his first seven overs of spin for 20 runs and the wickets of Warner and Usman Khawaja, but in his eighth was taken apart as Finch moved into six-hitting mode. Perera, with his lack of pace, was later mowed over square leg for six and cut over point for four.

Before he got to his half-century, Finch thudded a drive between extra cover and mid-off for four. Karunaratne pushed back mid-off. As if to show his supremacy, Finch cracked another drive over the fielder. When short fine leg was moved fine, Finch used his crease to whip the ball just past the same man. Milinda Siriwardana was given an over and Finch hit him through the line for the six that gave him his hundred.

This was calculated and exceptional batting from a man enjoying a batting renaissance. He may not be worried about a Test recall, but in limited-overs cricket Finch is batting with an appetite for destruction.

His century secured, Finch got clobbered 52 runs from his next 35 balls before he was out for his joint-best score in ODIs. Personally, he was pleased to have converted this innings into a big hundred.

“It was actually nice to kick on past 100 and get 150 and go a little bit deeper than probably what I have,” he said. “I’ve done it a couple times recently in Dubai, but other hundreds have been 104, 105, 110, around that mark that obviously help get yourself in a good position but getting a 150, probably allows your side to go a little bit deeper and go a bit harder with your middle order.”

Finch’s batting was a joyous affair. And with their skipper in such dominating batting form, Australia continue to make heads turn.