ENGLISH cricket fans know all about Aaron Finch.
In particular, they know how he can dismantle an attack in the most brutal of fashions, as England found to their cost at the Rose Bowl last year when some fearsome strokeplay from the Australian brought 156 in just 63 balls to set a new Twenty20 world record.
Then there are the two one-day international centuries Finch plundered off England in January this year and the fact he is ranked as the finest Twenty20 batsman in the world.
What is perhaps less well known, however, about the big-hitting 27-year-old is that his first class average is distinctly ordinary.
Before this LV=County Championship encounter got under way at Edgbaston, his average from 43 first-class appearances stood at just 28.97.
To put that into context, Rich Pyrah, the unsung hero of Yorkshire cricket who shared in a fine 123-run sixth wicket partnership yesterday, boasted an average of 29.19 and Jonny Bairstow 43.83.
This lack of runs in the longer forms of the game was one of the reasons why Finch accepted Jason Gillespie’s invitation to join Yorkshire on a short-term contract that would combine both Twenty20 and four-day cricket.
His plan was to discover a happy medium between attack and defence, in the hope that this could then lead to what has so far proved to be an elusive first Test call-up.
So far, so good on the first half of that wish-list with yesterday bringing only his third first class century – and his first since hitting 122 for Australia A against their Zimbabwean counterparts a little over three years ago.
Making light of a groin injury sustained on the opening day when taking one of his four slip catches, Finch hit the balls that were being begged to be hit but also displayed tremendous patience when the Warwickshire attack had their tails up.
In facing 146 deliveries, Finch helped himself to nine boundaries and a couple of sixes that were so monstrous that spinner Jeetan Patel was immediately taken out of the attack on both occasions.
Keith Barker was also smashed over extra cover and into the 17th row of the West Stand, the only closed part of Edgbaston this week, during an over that saw Finch advance from 86 to three figures inside the space of just four balls.
Finch’s delight was evident at reaching the landmark, as he raised both arms in the air and saluted his applauding team-mates on the away dressing room balcony before kissing the White Rose badge on the front of his helmet.
“Getting my first hundred for Yorkshire was a pretty pleasing moment,” said Finch, whose century helped his adopted county build a 194 run first-innings lead.
“Four-day cricket is a part of my game where I have under-performed in the past. I came to Yorkshire on the back of a couple of poor seasons for Victoria so I am really grateful for the chance the club has given me.
“Working with the coaches here, my technique has changed slightly. And for the better. A couple of things have been tightened up and it has made a big difference.”
Yorkshire had made their intentions clear from the very start of play, as Andrew Gale and Alex Lees set about the home attack in such a vigorous fashion that the first 19 deliveries yielded 30 runs.
Gale led the way with three shots to the boundary and another fierce hit that, even though it was cut off just short of the rope, travelled such a considerable distance that the two batsmen were able to dash through to complete four runs.
Clearly buoyed by such an electric start, Gale attempted to bring up his half-century by pulling Chris Wright but a mis-timed shot saw the ball fly high into the air and Tim Ambrose collected a simple catch.
Ambrose also accounted for Lees an hour or so later off the bowling of Chris Woakes to leave Yorkshire on 150-4.
Still 78 runs adrift and with a tail that, while not huge, was certainly longer than normal due to Steve Patterson coming in at No 8 rather than his customary 10, the day could have swung either way at that stage.
Happily for those supporters who had travelled south to Birmingham from the Broad Acres in decent numbers, Bairstow and Finch soon set about ensuring the initiative remained with Gale’s men.
The pair saw Yorkshire past the home side’s 228 all out before Bairstow played on while attempting to pull Boyd Rankin.
Even that, though, could not disrupt the visitors’ momentum as Pyrah joined Finch at the crease and soon set about the home attack.
Pyrah, clearly benefiting from the rhythm and confidence that comes with playing four consecutive Championship matches, cracked eight boundaries en route to a season’s best score of 62 before being trapped in front of his stumps by Rikki Clarke.
His demise came after that of Finch, who had gone courtesy of a stunning one-handed catch by Ambrose shortly after the tea break.
But a timely 32 from Patterson amid the lengthening shadows of a balmy summer’s evening then ensured Yorkshire cruised comfortably past 400 to claim maximum batting bonus points.