Australia 229 for 2 (Finch 172, Short 46) beat Zimbabwe 129 for 9 (Tye 3-12, Agar 2-16) by 100 runs
Rather than throw a kettle over a pub, it was Zimbabwe pasted all over the Harare Sports Club.
Aaron Finch bludgeoned his way to within three runs of Chris Gayle’s world-record Twenty20 score and bettered his own chart-topper in Twenty20 internationals as Australia cantered to a second victory in as many days in the triangular series in Harare.
Placing his stamp on the tournament and Australia’s short-form captaincy, Finch blazed 10 sixes in an opening stand of 223 – with a more subdued D’Arcy Short – that lasted until the final over of the visitors’ innings after they were sent in by Zimbabwe. Left with three balls to make the four runs he required to set a new world record score in all T20 matches, Finch was dismissed hit wicket when aiming for one more mighty blow. Still, he walked off having delivered a comfortably match-winning total for his team.
Despite a rapid start, as Billy Stanlake struggled to replicate the rhythm he had achieved against Pakistan the day before, Zimbabwe never truly threatened in the chase. Ashton Agar and Andrew Tye both delivered tight spells for the Australians, on a sluggish surface that was by no means the easiest for batsmen.
Given the heights to which Finch soared, the contrasting fortunes of Short put his innings in context, while evidence remained of Australian frailties against spin bowling via the isolated economy of the slow left-armer Tendai Chisoro, who gave up a mere 19 runs from four overs, six of those from one ball.
Kyle Jarvis had dropped out of the Zimbabwe XI with a broken thumb, with his place taken by Chris Mpofu, while Australia were unchanged. Zimbabwe won the only previous T20 encounter between the two nations, at the inaugural World T20 tournament in Cape Town in 2007.
Walking to the middle with Short, Finch found his range in the third over of the innings by clattering John Nyumbu for a trio of boundaries in as many balls, and the first six of the innings followed over wide long-on from Mpofu’s next over. From there the boundary was reached or cleared with alarming regularity for Zimbabwe’s captain Hamilton Masakadza, who tried hard but was unable to plug the holes in the field.
Ryan Burl’s legbreak cost 30 runs from two overs, while a single over from Solomon Mire was hoisted for no fewer than 21. Finch’s half-century arrived in 22 balls, and he reached a second T20I century from his 50th. His previous T20 hundred for Australia had arrived in a flurry of shots at the Rose Bowl against England in 2013, where he set the mark for the highest international score of 156, made from a mere 63 balls.
If Finch’s scoring pace was not quite that hectic this time around, there was a relentlessness in evidence that had him persevering until the final over of the innings, supported by Short who, while not striking the ball with anything like the same authority, showed a willingness to complement his captain by rotating the strike. Both were to depart in the final over of the innings, but only after the first ever 200 opening stand in T20 internationals and also the longest ever partnership in T20Is in terms of balls faced.
Zimbabwe commenced their chase with only the faintest of hope, but the openers Mire and Chamu Chibhabha atleast provided the small crowd some reason for good cheer with an impudent opening stand that lifted the hosts to 42 in the fourth over. Chibhabha was then the victim of a curious caught behind decision, but Stanlake was unable to back up his Pakistan efforts, underlining the fact that a journey from promising fast man to consistent performer is still some way from completion.
Jhye Richardson, Agar and Tye all fared rather better, steadily working their way through the Zimbabwe batting order while choking down on the run rate. Agar’s spin was at times beguiling, not least when he lured Masakadza down the pitch and then turned the ball past him for a deft stumping by Alex Carey.
In the end, Zimbabwe were limited to the most minor of moral victories by not allowing themselves to be bowled out, but the margin was nonetheless Australia’s widest in T20 matches. Finch could not have done any more to make it so.