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Finch left out of WT20 opener

18 March 2016 10:07 AM
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The much-debated topic of Australia's T20 opening combination was finally answered in the moments leading into their ICC World Twetnty20 opener in Dharamshala against New Zealand, with Aaron Finch the man missing out.

Finch's omission will come as a shock to many, with the Victorian currently ranked the world’s No.1 T20 batsman by the International Cricket Councils’ official ratings and, up until the recent series against India, Australia's captain in the format.

The 29-year-old made scores of 44 and 74 in that series in January, but was forced to retire hurt in the latter innings with a hamstring problem that put his position in Australia's World T20 squad in jeopardy.

He recovered sufficiently to be named and also travel to South Africa with the squad, where he made 40 (18) and two in his two hit-outs, before hitting 33 (24) against the West Indies in a warm-up fixture in Kolkata.

Speaking after that match, Finch conceded he wasn't sure whether he'd be selected for Australia's tournament opener.

"I’ve got no idea to be honest," he said. "I’m just getting prepared to play as everyone is.

"I feel really good with my game at the moment – I feel as though I’m hitting the ball really well so if I get the first crack at it I’m ready to go.

"(There's) not much I can do about it, it’s up to the selectors and the captain and the coach now to make a call and whichever way they go.

"I’m sure it will be the right move for the team and the XI they think can win the game."

Watson appeared the one certain starter in the opening position ahead of the contest, while Australia's selection of Khawaja may have in some part been the result of New Zealand's selection of three spinners in their clash against India who all turn the ball into the left-hander – leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and left-arm orthodox pair Nathan McCullum and Mitchell Santner.

McCullum was left out of the Black Caps' XI for the Australia clash, however Sodhi and Santner were particularly impressive against India, taking seven wickets between them in a devastating display of spin bowling on a helpful Nagpur track.

Finch talked down the importance of a left-hand, right-hand combination when discussing the matter in Kolkata.

"It’s probably less important in the first six (overs), the left-hand/right hand combination," he said. "From my point of view it’s about trying to get us off to a quick start, I’m sure Shane (Watson) is thinking the same and 'Uzzie' (Khawaja) is probably in the same boat.

"If he (Khawaja) gets his opportunity it’s about getting us off to a flyer, while the ball is new and hard and then you can afford to probably have a bit more of a look through that middle period when spin comes on and they take the pace right off the ball."

Based solely upon his T20I record, Finch's exclusion is a bold decision from Cricket Australia's National Selection Panel; the opening batsman has played 26 matches, scored six fifties and a lone hundred – 156 off 63 balls (14x6s, 11x4s), the highest-ever T20 international score, made against England in August 2013.

He also has considerable Indian Premier League experience to call on, while Khawaja – who has been picked on the base of his astonishing run of form in Test cricket and the KFC Big Bash over the summer – has played just three T20 internationals and has not appeared in the IPL.

Khawaja did skipper Australia A in a one-day tri-series with India and South Africa’s A teams last winter, where he averaged 66.75 against the white ball, scoring one century and four fifties in four innings.


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