Richard Musgrave was at Clifton Alliance Cricket Club the year they signed Aaron Finch and talks about opening the batting with the Australian and what a story it is.
In 2009 Clifton Alliance CC in York almost became the club that turned down the chance to sign Australian star Aaron Finch as our overseas player.
By the end of the season, there were a few bowlers in the York & District Senior League who wished that we had done.
That season was to be the last before overseas players were banned from the League and we wanted to sign the right man. We had a few options, and there was quite a debate about who we should go for, but that year’s club skipper, James Postill, was adamant that he wanted Finch.
Those who had reservations could have had a point. Finch’s career looked to have stalled slightly at that point after representing Australia at age group cricket level and there were rumours of ill-discipline during his time at the Australian Academy.
It looked like a risk and he wasn’t cheap. But legendary Australian agent Brendan McArdle put his neck on the block and highlighted Finch’s record in Melbourne Grade cricket, so we took the plunge.
Even then it wasn’t straight forward as his arrival was delayed by visa issues. However, from the moment he arrived at Heathrow early one Saturday morning a couple of weeks into the season, hired a car and drove himself to the ground to smash a quick 70, it was obvious that he was dynamite. The runs started to flow, often spectacularly.
One early game, that I didn’t play in, saw us bowl Beverley out for 97. Finchy then smashed 89 not out off 23 balls in reply and we knocked them off in only 8.3 overs. He’d taken 4-14 in that game too with his mucky but effective left arm darts for good measure.
There was also a massive hundred in the cup against Woodhouse Grange, that year’s League Champions, which was breathtaking. It was unreal stuff as some quality bowlers were smashed to all parts of the ground.
The opposition tried to outfox him, usually by starving him of the strike. I scored some easy runs at the other end as they tried, sharing four century partnerships with him in eight games. I took to wearing a helmet at the non-striker’s end, so hard and straight did he hit it.
Sometimes he got himself out, probably lacking a challenge, but he ended up with over 900 runs in about 15 league games; I am sure he’d have broken every record if he’d played the full season but there are some bowlers in York who can boast about having bagged an international.
We’d had good overseas players before, for example, Daniel Harris who had a good career with South Australia was an exemplary professional in 2005. But Finchy was a step up again.
Despite his abundance of talent, he was a great bloke to have around the club and put a fair amount of his fee back over the bar. It’s no secret that he enjoyed a pint and a fag, and there were no airs and graces to him.
He just got on with his job and mucked in, mixing with everyone at the club. I particularly remember him happily singing along to the Bob The Builder theme tune with my then 18-month-old son one day.
He left about three games early to get back for Victoria pre-season with the impression that he was very focused on his career and that his time was coming.
It was no surprise when his career started to blossom the following Australian summer and he was picked for Australia T20 side a year later. Aaron’s an instinctive cricketer, so it also didn’t surprise me that he has taken on captaincy responsibility.
He kept the game so simple that it looked easy. Even in my mid-thirties I learned plenty from playing with him and seeing a high quality cricketer at close quarters.
His ambition was obvious without being overpowering. I think he was just hugely confident that he’d become an Australian cricketer so he didn’t need to bang on about it. Not many people who played with or against him doubted he’d make the grade.
Although he was strong all-round the ground, he favoured the leg side and his slog sweep went miles. It still does. He had a simple, strong technique and he was always adamant that he was ambitious in all forms of the game, even though at that time global T20 specialists were starting to emerge and that would have seem to be an obvious route for him.
But that would underestimate his self-belief and talent, and it was interesting that he wants to play red ball cricket for Yorkshire. I think that arrangement will suit both parties and I wouldn’t bet against him wearing a baggy green one day.
In the meantime, just sit back and enjoy watching him in the NatWest T20 Blast (and if you go along to watch I advise you to seriously consider wearing a helmet in the crowd).
BY RICHARD MUSGRAVE
* Finch photo by Napazzi on Flickr.