By Rob Barnett
Aaron Finch soared to the highest score in Twenty20 international history as his 63-ball 156 sped Australia to a staggering 248 for six in a 39-run victory over England at the Ageas Bowl.
The opening batsman, who narrowly missed out on the fastest T20I ton, flayed a scarcely-believable 14 sixes and 11 fours once the tourists were put into bat.
Finch, 26, playing in his 13th limited-overs international with a previous best of 53 not out, dominated stands of 114 with Shaun Marsh and 101 alongside Shane Watson.
Watson was Australia’s next-best contributor after Finch, courtesy of 37 from 16 deliveries, while Jade Dernbach was England’s most impressive bowler thanks to figures of 3-34 from four overs.
With no option but to go for the runs, the hosts slipped to 42 for four in the fifth over with Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood each striking twice.
Yet Joe Root and Ravi Bopara responded through a 95-run alliance to keep the game alive. Root, who took a nasty blow to the helmet from Hazlewood, went on a limited-overs international-best 90 not out from 49 balls.
That, allied to Bopara’s 45 and 27 from Jos Buttler, carried England, who closed on a creditable 209 for six, much closer to their target than many expected. It meant 457 runs were scored in the game, the most in a Twenty20 international.
It was also the second entertaining match of today’s double-header, following England Women’s five-wicket win that regained the Ashes.
Early in the men’s encounter David Warner lost hold of his bat as Stuart Broad had him caught behind via a skier in his first over, but Finch was in control as he took Steven Finn for three fours in the next.
Finch had four sixes to his name by the time the powerplay ended with 58 on the board. He accelerated despite the fielding restrictions being eased and struck Root consecutively for three maximums and two fours in an over yielding 27.
That took Finch into the 90s where he slowed in sight of three figures, missing out on beating Richard Levi’s 45-ball hundred against South Africa in February 2012. Finch reached the landmark from one delivery more via a top-edged hook off Broad.
He then raced past Brendon McCullum’s previous record 123, made against Bangladesh last September, and on to 150 in just 13 more balls before playing on to Dernbach, who bowled Watson in the same over.
Finn trapped George Bailey lbw and Dernbach cleaned up Glenn Maxwell as England refused to give up in the field.
Michael Lumb eased to 22 to continue the riposte, but was then lbw to Johnson. Hazlewood made it three wickets in four deliveries by having Alex Hales and Luke Wright caught behind, and Johnson soon had Eoin Morgan taken at extra-cover to leave England four down.
Root, despite having to call for treatment and a replacement helmet, batted sensibly in the situation and found the boundary with some regularity - 14 times in all. Bopara contributed evenly to their partnership until falling at midwicket off Watson.
Root and Buttler, who was bowled by Faulkner in the final over, each cleared the rope as the hosts laid down a marker for Saturday’s second and last encounter at the Emirates Durham ICG.
Live Text Commentary
9:47pm - AUSTRALIA WIN BY 39 RUNS! England 209/6; Root 90, Broad 4 - Buttler flays a maximum over long-off but is bowled next ball by Faulkner. Stuart Broad hits four more down the ground before Root moves to 90 not out from 49 deliveries, featuring 13 fours and a maximum.
9:42pm - Buttler plays a typical reverse ramp shot to pick up four more and Root gets another four yet England require 54 from the last over.
9:37pm - Faulkner concedes just five from the next set of six, so 69 are needed from 12 deliveries.
9:33pm - Root takes Johnson for a six and two fours in an over worth 17, but England still want 74 from the last three.
9:26pm - Root pulls Hazlewood for four and Buttler smacks him for a dead-straight six, leaving 91 required from 24 balls.
9:22pm - Jos Buttler cuts Ahmed for four in the 15th over, after which England require 104 for victory.
9:17pm - WICKET! Bopara c Warner b Watson 45; Eng 137/5 - Bopara smites Watson for a straight six and four but then gets under a short ball and is held at midwicket, ending a stand of 95 with Root.
9:15pm - FIFTY! Root (29b 8x4 0x6) - Root clips Faulkner over midwicket for his eighth four to herald a brisk half-century and a brave one after his early blow to the helmet.
9:12pm - CHANCE! - Watson restricts England to five from his second over before Bopara narrowly survives on 33 from David Warner’s direct hit at the non-striker’s end. The batsman thought he was out and was walking off when TV replays showed the bails had not left the grooves of the stumps in time!
9:03pm - CHANCE! - Bopara survives a stumping shout on 18. His back foot left the ground just after Wade broke the stumps from Ahmed’s leg-side wide. Bopara responds by striking four through mid-off.
9pm - Bopara hits Faulkner down the ground for four as the hosts reach 98 for four from 10 overs. They need another 151 to win.
8:56pm - Root picks up two fours in overs from Shane Watson and Ahmed, with England not too far from being where Australia were in terms of runs at the same stage.
8:48pm - Debutant leg-spinner Ahmed is immediately swept for four by Ravi Bopara in an introductory over costing 10.
8:45pm - Joe Root, who recovered from the blow to the helmet by clipping Hazlewood off his pads for four, takes the same bowler for two more fours, moving England to 54 for four from the powerplay.
8:38pm - WICKET! Morgan c Maxwell b Johnson 0; Eng 42/4 - Eoin Morgan drives to cover-point where Glenn Maxwell holds a sharp head-high catch. If not before, England are in trouble now as Johnson completes a wicket-maiden.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 29, 2013
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) August 29, 2013
8:28pm - WICKET! Wright c Wade b Hazlewood 4; 37/2 - England lose a third scalp in four balls as Wade takes a regular catch for a keeper via faint edge from Wright, who had driven the previous delivery for four.
8:26pm - WICKET! Hales c Wade b Hazlewood 8; Eng 33/2 - Hales skies towards square-leg where wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, having hesitated, holds a diving catch just ahead of Fawad Ahmed.
8:24pm - WICKET! Lumb lbw Johnson 22; Eng 33/1 - Johnson gets revenge for the previous over with a delivery that would have hit middle and off stumps.
8:22pm - CHANCE! - Alex Hales, having just hit four through backward point, takes a risky single towards mid-off and would had been run out for seven by a direct hit from James Faulkner at the non-striker’s end.
8:20pm - Lumb spoils an otherwise tight over from Josh Hazlewood by launching the last ball down the ground for the innings’ first six.
8:15pm - Mitchell Johnson starts with a front-foot no-ball and also bowls two wides in an over yielding three fours for Michael Lumb and costing 17.
— Richard Levi (@RichardLevi88) August 29, 2013
7:57pm - END OF INNINGS! Australia 248/6; Wade 15, Faulkner 5 - Dernbach’s quicker ball removes Glenn Maxwell’s off stump for the cost of one run and an impressive last over gives the bowler figures of 3-34.
7:52pm - Matthew Wade smacks Finn over long-on to get in on the act. The tourists are 242 for five with an over to go.
7:48pm - WICKET! Bailey lbw Finn 1; Aus 228/5 - Australia’s captain is trapped in front for 155 fewer than Finch.
7:45pm - WICKET! Watson b Dernbach 37; Aus 227/4 - Another slower ball takes out leg stump. Dernbach hasn’t exactly dragged it back but his over took 2-6.
7:42pm - WICKET! Finch b Dernbach 156 (63b 11x4 14x6); Aus 226/3 - The scarcely-believable innings ends in the 18th over as Finch plays on to Dernbach’s slower ball.
Chris Gayle holds T20 record 175 from 66 balls in the IPL. Aaron Finch was the opposition captain
— BBC TMS (@bbctms) August 29, 2013
7:40pm - 150! (60b, 10x4 14x6) - Finch smites Briggs over the leg-side rope three more times, the last of those taking him to another fantastic landmark.
7:34pm - Three sixes come from Wright’s next over, two for Finch and one for Watson, before another for Finch over cover off Broad gives him the highest T20I score, beating Brendon McCullum’s 123 versus Bangladesh. By the end of the over, the 16th, another Watson maximum makes Australia 199 for two.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 29, 2013
7:26pm - CENTURY! Finch (47b 9x4 8x6) - Finch top-edges a hook just over the fielder at fine-leg for another maximum that takes him to a maiden international hundred. He has batted brilliantly.
7:21pm - Shane Watson ends a Dernbach over with two fours down the ground, the first off the back foot and the other off the front. Finch misses out on claiming the fastest T20I ton as Luke Wright starts with a tight over.
7:13pm - WICKET! Marsh c Lumb b Briggs 28; Aus 125/2 - The left-hander miscues and Lumb holds a good catch, running in from long-on. It’s not Finch, but England needed a breakthrough.
7:12pm - A Lumb misfield at long-off from the last ball of Briggs’ second over gifts Finch four. The first of three consecutive Finch sixes off Joe Root then speeds Australia to three figures in an over that yields 27, making the tourists 122 for one from half their overs. Finch remarkably has 91 from 36 balls.
7:04pm - FIFTY! Finch (26b 5x4 4x6) - Finch raises his second T20I half-century by smashing Ravi Bopara down the ground for his fourth six. In the previous over Marsh slog swept Danny Briggs for his first maximum.
6:54pm - Another tightish over is tarnished last ball when Finch launches Finn for a maximum similar to his first. The same happens in the next over as Finch smites Jade Dernbach over the cover boundary, taking Australia to 58 for one from the powerplay.
— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 29, 2013
6:49pm - Shaun Marsh ends a decent Broad set of six by opening the face for four as 10 come from the over.
6:45pm - Finn concedes three leg-side fours to Finch in his next over, after which Australia are 29 for one from three.
6:37pm - WICKET! Warner c Buttler b Broad 1; Eng 11/1 - David Warner loses grip of his bat as he skies to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. The umpires consult TV replays to confirm Stuart Broad has not bowled a no-ball before confirming the dismissal. Finch thick-edges the next ball for four.
6:35pm - Steven Finn opens up and is pulled for six over backward square-leg by Aaron Finch as the over costs 10.
6:10pm - Play is scheduled to begin at 6:30pm. Here are the teams in full.
England: Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Luke Wright, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Danny Briggs, Jade Dernbach.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood, Fawad Ahmed.
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) August 29, 2013
6:04pm - ENGLAND WIN TOSS AND BOWL - Stuart Broad decides to insert Australia. Danny Briggs will play on home soil for England, who leave out Michael Carberry, James Tredwell and Boyd Rankin from their 14-man squad.
Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed makes his long-awaited debut for the tourists.
5:55pm - Evening all. England Women have just regained the Ashes and their male counterparts will hope to keep the feel-good factor going tonight in part two of a Twenty20 double-header at the Ageas Bowl.
The toss will take place shortly and ecb.co.uk is ready to keep you updated on all the action.