Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Finch's focus turns to Test push
In-form Victorian will be hoping to continue his winter run-scoring spree in the longer format
18 August 2018, 03:29 PM AEST
Aaron Finch's red-hot T20 form has some pundits putting him in the frame for a Test berth, but the Victorian's real push for a Baggy Green is about to begin.
Finch has been the most in-form T20 batsman on the planet this winter, striking an incredible 979 runs at 108.77 for Australia and Surrey.
That run included a new T20 world record score of 172 in the Zimbabwe tri-series, features two other centuries for Surrey in England's domestic T20 competition, and has seen the opener carry his bat through the innings six times.
His hot streak in ODI cricket stretches back even further, and since Australia toured India last September, Finch has hit 686 runs at 62.36.
And if you disregard the failed experiment of putting Finch in the middle order that was trialled under new national coach Justin Langer in England, Finch's average as an ODI opener balloons to an even 74 across the past 12 months.
But with Surrey now eliminated from England's T20 competition, Finch will have a series of first-class matches with the county where he can really push his claim for Test selection, starting with a day-night match against Lancashire against the pink ball at The Oval on Sunday night.
Finch is an automatic selection for Australia's white-ball formats, but his ability to translate that form into first-class cricket could make or break his Test ambitions.
Victoria and Melbourne Renegades coach Andrew McDonald says Finch's ability to switch between white, pink and red-ball formats was now "better than ever".
"He's just got a greater understanding of his game, and that's come through some successes and failures along the way," McDonald told News Corp.
"He knows what he does well and sticks to that, that's what most mature players do.
"Selection is subjective. It will be down to the guys sitting around a table to decide if he's good enough. He's made some real gains.
"He is able to bounce in and out of the different formats better than ever, probably through experience."
Finch's county stint comes with an Australia A side in India for a series of one-day and four-day matches, with national coach Justin Langer indicating form there will go a long way to picking the Test XI to face Pakistan in the UAE in October.
Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns are other contenders for the Test squad who have not made the trip to India as they prepare with their states, while Finch will push his case in England.
"It depends on what form line you take — the Australia A line or the English county cricket form line. That's for selectors to weigh up," said McDonald.
"But if you are making runs it's better than not making runs, and that's as simple as it gets."
The 31-year-old has played just one first-class game for Surrey so far this season, scoring 2, but since the winter of 2014 when he first took up a county contract, Finch averages 49.27 in first-class cricket.
That includes more than 1600 runs in Australia at 50.59, while he's averaging an impressive 46.62 in England's county system, all amid limited opportunities around white-ball commitments.
"Test cricket will take care of itself if I keep scoring runs," Finch said recently.
"I do feel over the last few years I've adapted my game and I'm in a much better position.
"Four-day cricket I've come to the realisation that everyone gets out, regardless if it's a duck or for 200, everyone gets out eventually in the game of cricket so I've embraced that, but don't be content with getting out."
Finch accepts he had a horror run in Sheffield Shield cricket between 2011 and 2014, where in three seasons he scored 511 runs at 16.48, and a reputation that still persists was formed.
"I started off really well in Shield cricket when I first came in, I was 23, got a few runs and then for some reason out of the blue, I just started getting lbw every innings," Finch told The Howie Games podcast earlier this year.
"The harder I worked at getting that right, the worse it got. I was trying so hard and practising so well that I think that I was putting too much time and effort into that. I'd get out into the middle but I would've already batted for 40 minutes before the game and spent so much mental energy worrying about not getting lbw, by the time you get out there you've already worked yourself into a state."
Former national coach Darren Lehmann recently revealed Finch was "close" to Test selection during his tenure, and recent form had strengthened that case.
"He can play Test cricket, there's no doubt about that," Lehmann told the Geelong Advertiser.
"He's confident in the way he plays spin bowling, he can take an attack on, and leading into this Pakistan series he's a really good chance to be selected for that one.
"He was always knocking on the door, but he just hadn't made runs consistently.
"But his last couple of Shield years have been pretty good. If you take a look at his numbers, they're right up there.
"He probably could've made a few more hundreds and pushed his case even further but he's one player we talked about quite a lot.
"He's close, and when I was coach, he was close. He's probably closer now."
Finch on fire
T20 record since June 2018 (most recent innings first):
44*, 67*, 16, 117*, 30, 43*, 83, 131*, 58, 47, 3, 16, 172, 68*, 84. Total: 979 runs @ 108.77
ODI record since September 2017 (most recent innings first):
22, 100, 20, 0, 19, 62, 106, 107, 124, 94, 32. Total 686 runs @ 62.36
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia.