It took just 19 overs for Aaron Finch to bat Zimbabwe out of the game as Australia registered a comprehensive 100-run win in the third match of the T20I tri-series in Harare. The Australian captain smashed 172 – the second highest score in T20s and the highest in T20Is – to power Australia to 229 for 2. In response, Zimbabwe could only manage 129 for 9 to slip to their second consecutive loss.
In Australia’s opening game, Finch took splendid catches, led the side wonderfully and then scored an unbeaten half-century to cap off an easy win over Pakistan. And yet, he wasn’t the one who created the impact that changed the course of the game. It was Billy Stlanlake’s 4 for 8 at the start that knocked the wind out of Pakistan innings. On Tuesday(July 3), though, Finch came out with intent not to be left behind.
Zimbabwe bowlers struggled. Finch’s partner, D’Arcy Short, struggled too and yet it didn’t matter. Finch and Short scored 223 for the first wicket – the highest stand for any wicket in T20Is – and yet Short contributed just 46, and that after chewing 42 deliveries on a batting paradise. Short struggled against spin, and it wasn’t a surprise given his vulnerabilities against the same, and Zimbabwe ensured there was a heavy dose of it. And despite all the struggles, the move backfired.
Finch took on the spinners to give Australia a fast start. The century-run stand was built inside the first ten overs. However, the real assault began only in the 14th over after Finch had cantered past his ton off 50 deliveries. John Nyumbu bore the brunt first before Solomon Mire and Chris Mpofu were put in place.
Finch was dropped thrice during his 76-ball stay before he eventually fell in the final over. First chance came Zimbabwe’s way in the 12th over when he was 82. Smashed back at Chibhabha, the pacer stuck out his right hand but failed to cling on to it. Finch was on 82 then and the next one came in the 16th over. Finch had raced to 132 by then and that was probably the easiest opportunity the hosts had. Smashed wide of sweeper cover, Ryan Burl ran in, got to the ball and then messed spilled it onto the floor offering another reprieve for the Aussie skipper. Probably fed up with the lack of challenge, Finch threw away his wicket as he lost his balance, trying to chase a wide yorker, and was hit wicket.
He became only the second player to break the record twice for the highest individual score in a format in international cricket after Brian Lara. The Windies legend, who broke Gary Sobers’ (365 not out) record for the highest individual score in 1994 scoring 375, emulated himself ten years later when he broke the same record held by Matthew Hayden (380) by scoring an unbeaten 400 – both against England in St John’s, ten years later.
Zimbabwe, bruised and battered, weren’t in the chase despite a promising start. The powerplay yielded 63 runs for the loss of two wickets, but it was the Australia show all the way. Wickets kept coming and the chase got stuck in the taxiway refusing to take off. It was all too easy for the visiting bowlers and they made merry against a hapless opposition.
Brief scores: Australia 229/2 in 20 overs (Aaron Finch 172) beat Zimbabwe 129/9 in 20 overs (Andrew Tye 3-12) by 100 runs.
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