Aaron Finch’s world-record 156 against England sits at No.3 in Wisden’s men’s T20I innings of the decade. But the true genius of the innings wasn’t in the ground it broke, but in what it showed could be possible in future, writes Ben Gardner.
Aaron Finch 156 (63 balls, 11 fours, 14 sixes)
England v Australia
The Rose Bowl, Southampton
August 29, 2013
In a way, this innings sits slightly jarringly on this list. Whereas the others are feats of calculated risk-taking under extreme pressure on the biggest stages, this is something else entirely; coming in the first in a two-game T20I series towards the end of a near four-month long tour, were it not for Finch’s firestorm of a knock, the match might have been entirely forgotten. Try and see if you can remember what happened in the second game of the series, without looking it up.
Sometimes of course greatness needs no context, and the absence of a wider narrative can even help emphasise the masterclass at hand. But that type of assessment is generally reserved for those already deemed something special, or for those announcing themselves as a peculiar talent.
This certainly wasn’t the former, and though it came in only Finch’s 14th international game, it wasn’t really the latter either. There were two shots of pure AB-esque invention – the first of which we’ll come to, and the second of which was a cut for four off Danny Briggs from outside leg stump – but the rest of the innings was characterised by the bruising, brutalist biffing which Finch has made his calling card, backing outside leg and letting his burly frame do the rest.
They are the kind of shots that feel more impressive in compilation than isolation. His record demands respect, and by now he should be in the conversation for the best T20I batsman of all, but he has never developed any sort of fan club in the way the other contenders for the crown have.
But really the more prosaic qualities inherent in Finch’s batting only served to emphasise the single most important lesson to be learned from the performance; that Finch, in a way, had done nothing uniquely extraordinary to reach uncharted ground, served to show that in T20 cricket, almost anything is possible. Had this innings come from one of the format’s pyrotechnic luminaries – a Chris Gayle or a Brendon McCullum – we might simply have marvelled at the player in question. Coming as it did from a relatively uncelebrated source, the focus instead was: what’s next?
It wasn’t just that Finch broke the record for the highest T20I score, and it wasn’t just that he did so by over 30 runs. It was that, when dismissed, 16 balls of the innings still remained. New highs often feel like limits, a mark that will surely stand through time until somehow we’re proved wrong. The greatness of Finch’s knock was in showing how far there still is to go.
5.5, Jade Dernbach to Aaron Finch, six runs
The aforementioned outlier, as Finch backed away only for Jade Dernbach to hold it out wide rather than fire it at his toes. The Australian stretched, falling over in a desperate attempt to reach the ball, and somehow, with timing rather than strength, sent it into the stands over cover point. Eleven more sixes would flow from Finch’s bat, but none would make England feel quite so helpless.