Finch backed to lead Yorkshire’s bid for quarters

Aaron Finch.
Aaron Finch.
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MARTYN MOXON is backing Australian batsman Aaron Finch to break free from his run-scoring drought and give Yorkshire the perfect send-off by firing them into the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals.

Finch leaves the county after the final two group games against Birmingham Bears at Headingley tonight and against Nottinghamshire at Headingley a week today to take part in a training camp with his national side and is unavailable for the knockout stages.

The big-hitting 27-year-old – the world’s No 1-ranked T20 batsman – has struggled so far, managing one innings of note: a match-winning 88 against Lancashire at Old Trafford.

Otherwise, seven T20 innings have brought Finch 66 runs at 9.42 and he has proven more prolific in four-day cricket, scoring 291 runs at 48.5 – almost 20 runs higher than his first-class average.

But as Yorkshire seek the win tonight that would book their place in the quarter-finals, with another victory next week guaranteeing a home tie, director of cricket Moxon believes Finch can deliver the perfect parting shot.

“I’m confident that, in the next two games, Aaron can make a really telling contribution,” said Moxon. “He played brilliantly in the match at Old Trafford and you always know that he’s capable of producing that type of match-winning performance.

“Obviously, he’s disappointed and frustrated that he hasn’t contributed more, and ironically he’s had more success for us in four-day cricket than T20 and played some brilliant knocks for us in the Championship.

“He got a hundred in the game down at Edgbaston, and I thought he played brilliantly in last week’s match against Durham, even though he scored only 36.

“Aaron has contributed in so many ways and off the field he has been fantastic in the way he has spoken to the players and worked with them, passing on his experience of international cricket and the Indian Premier League.”

Moxon believes Finch has struggled due to the sluggish nature of some of the pitches.

He feels the surface will suit him more for tonight’s encounter, which starts at 5.30pm.

“We’ve played on quite a few slow pitches and I don’t think that’s suited Aaron as his game is all about hitting through the line of the ball and the pitches haven’t really helped him do that,” said Moxon. “In the last couple of games, he’s been out trying to turn to leg and the ball’s kind of stopped on him and he’s got leading edges into the off-side.

“At Old Trafford, where he did so well, the pitch was very good, the ball came on nicely and we saw the best of him.

“But he’s working hard to find a way, and the fact that we’ll be playing on a new pitch against Birmingham will hopefully suit his strengths.”

Moxon, who has ruled out signing a replacement for Finch should Yorkshire reach the last eight, with Yorkshire’s main overseas player Kane Williamson available now for the rest of the season, is pleased with the club’s T20 form.

He has reason to be chuffed with the way they responded to a dreadful home defeat to Durham, when they were bowled out for 95, which they followed with victory in the return match at Chester-le-Street and a win in Derbyshire last Sunday.

“I’ve no idea where that Durham defeat came from,” added Moxon. “It was a particularly disappointing performance and a shock to us all.

“The two performances since then have been excellent and we can look forward with confidence now to these two last games.

“Qualifying is the first priority, but the target really is to get a home quarter-final, which would also help the club financially.”

Yorkshire are second in the North Group after six wins, three defeats and three no-results, with the top four progressing to the quarter-finals.

They have a three-point cushion over Birmingham, in fifth, with two points on offer for a win.

Yorkshire’s performances have been a clear improvement on last year, when they finished bottom of the North Group after seven defeats in 10 games.

They may take some stopping as they try to repeat – and hopefully surpass – their efforts in 2012, when they reached Finals Day for the only time and finished runners-up.

“Apart from maybe a couple of games, I think we’ve played pretty well in T20 this year,” said Moxon.

“It’s pleasing that we’ve improved on last year’s efforts, which was what we set out to do at the start of the campaign, and it’s testament to the lads for all the hard work they started back in the winter. Now we need to continue the job and get ourselves through to the quarter-finals.”

Yorkshire (from): Bairstow, Bresnan, Brooks, Finch, Gale (captain), Hodd, Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Pyrah, Rafiq, Rashid, Robinson, Sidebottom, Williamson.