SOUTHAMPTON: Aaron Finch's record-breaking innings saw Australia to a first competitive international win in 200 days as they beat England by 39 runs in the first Twenty20 international at Southampton on Thursday.
Man-of-the-match Finch's stunning 156, the highest individual score in all Twenty20 internationals, was the cornerstone of Australia's 248 for six, itself the second-highest team score at this level.
England, who wrapped up a 3-0 Ashes series win with a draw at The Oval on Sunday, unsurprisingly lost early wickets when faced with such a colossal chase and finished on 209 for six in this day/night fixture.
Victory saw Australia go 1-0 up in a two-match series that concludes in Durham on Saturday.
Australia hadn't won a major international match since a 17-run one-day international victory over the West Indies at Melbourne on February 10.
Finch's runs came from just 63 balls and the 26-year-old Victorian opener, playing just his seventh match at this level, comfortably surpassed the previous Twenty20 world record of 123 set by New Zealand's Brendon McCullum against Bangladesh at Pallekele in September last year.
“I have been with the Australia A side all summer, so I brought a bit of form into the game,” said Finch at the presentation ceremony.
“The wicket was flat and it was one of those days. There was no seam or spin so it was nice to get a few early boundaries and I took it on from there.”
Australia Twenty20 captain George Bailey said the only innings to compare with Finch's was West Indies star Chris Gayle who in April scored the fastest century in all professional cricket, off 30 balls, during his 175 not out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors in the Twenty20 Indian Premier League.
“It was a pretty extraordinary knock and the only innings that came close was Chris Gayle's in the IPL,” said Bailey.
“We knew it was going to be a good wicket and history says it is tough to defend on this pitch but given it's been so long since we had a win we'll take it,” he added of a match where the teams' combined 457 runs was also a Twenty20 international record.
Finch got off the mark, reached his fifty, hundred and 150 with sixes.
Indeed his 14 sixes were also a world record for an individual T20 international innings, with Finch also striking 11 fours.
Finch's century was only the 10th in all T20 internationals, the first by an Australian and the first by any batsman in England.
“It was incredible striking from Aaron Finch -- 14 sixes in an innings is incredible,” said England Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad.
“Sometimes you have to say you were outplayed and we were outplayed by one man.”
Finch's extraordinary innings ended when he was bowled by seamer Jade Dernach who, in the midst of the mayhem, took three wickets for 34 runs in four overs.
In view of the run-spree to come, England, who won the toss, started well when dangerman David Warner lost control of his bat as he holed out off Broad for one.
From then on, the innings belonged to Finch who struck an extraordinary six over cover on one knee off medium-pacer Ravi Bopara.
His 50 came off 27 balls, with a straight six off Bopara, and he appeared on course to beat South African Richard Levi's record 45-ball century.
Finch had to be content with a 47-ball hundred, going to the landmark with a top-edged six, while McCullum's previous record was surpassed with yet another six, this time over cover off Broad.
Dernbach finally bowled Finch and removed Shane Watson as Australia fell short of Sri Lanka's T20 international record team total of 260 for six against Kenya in Johannesburg in 2007.
Australia opening bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood took four wickets between them as England slumped to 42 for four, with their side showing just two survivors from The Oval in Broad and Joe Root.
However, it was Root's commendable 90 not out -- his first T20 international innings -- off just 49 balls, including 13 fours and a six, that prevented a humiliating loss.