BY his own admission, Aaron Finch came to Yorkshire primarily to play County Championship cricket to increase his chances of representing Australia at Test level.
The 27-year-old right-hander feels that he has nothing to prove in T20 – the format for which he was chiefly signed and in which he is the world’s No 1-ranked batsman – but acknowledges that he has much to learn in the first-class arena.
Finch, having made his debut in the T20 the previous night, could hardly have wished for a steeper learning curve than he experienced at Wantage Road on Saturday, when he was pitched in at the deep end on his maiden Championship appearance.
He arrived at the crease with Yorkshire 41-4 in the 18th over after they had been sent into bat beneath leaden skies and with the ball nibbling about in helpful conditions.
Under the circumstances, he could be reasonably pleased with his performance of a top score of 34 in Yorkshire’s 136 all out.
One says “reasonably”, for no top-order batsman is ever going to hang out the bunting after scoring 34 runs – unless, of course, he was plying his trade in the days of uncovered pitches.
But Finch, who averages just 27 in first-class cricket, was one of the few who came to terms with the challenge presented by a lively attack and was unfortunate when he chopped on to Mohammad Azharullah trying to force through the covers off the back foot.
He faced 52 balls and hit four fours and a six, the maximum a savage cut off Ian Butler, the New Zealand pace bowler, that landed on the green tarpaulin covers close to the old signal box.
Yorkshire’s score was their lowest since they were bowled out for 96 by Sussex at Headingley on the opening day of last season.
It was the product of good bowling, indifferent batting, and a pitch that could not be blamed for the procession of dismissals.
Adam Lyth got a full delivery that swung back in and trapped him lbw. Alex Lees was caught behind trying to push forward. Andrew Gale nibbled at one and was held at first slip. Jack Leaning was also taken at first slip as he made to play back. Jonny Bairstow was bowled attempting an expansive drive, with Yorkshire going into lunch on 78-5 after a brief revival from Finch and Adil Rashid had lifted them up from 45-5.
After the break, Rashid undid his good work when he slashed outside off-stump and was caught behind. Finch followed after his fighting performance. Tim Bresnan – released from one-day international duty at Lord’s – was bowled offering no shot. Steve Patterson was caught behind pushing forward, and Liam Plunkett top-edged an attempted pull to the wicketkeeper after a run-a-ball cameo of 25.
There were four wickets for Butler, three for Azharullah, two for Maurice Chambers and one for Andrew Hall, Northamptonshire going on to 191-7 at stumps, former Yorkshire all-rounder James Middlebrook top-scoring with 70 and ex-Northamptonshire pace bowler Jack Brooks claiming four of the wickets.