The 27-year-old, who earned a reputation as an all-out attack weapon in the Twenty20 format, rode his luck and a wave of local sentiment to score the second hundred of his 17-match ODI career and his first in Australia.
He was dismissed for 121, his second-highest ODI score following the 148 he made against Scotland last September, caught at deep third man when Australia, who were chasing 270 for victory, had the game in their keeping with 33 runs required from more than 10 overs.
The opener said he was unaware of the place he had earned in Victorian sporting folklore until after the match, and expressed surprise that local legend Dean Jones -- who was watching Finch's innings from a radio commentary box -- had not achieved that milestone during his celebrated career.
"I thought Deano (Jones) definitely would have done that before me but he must have missed out a few times," Finch said after the match.
"But it's important to start a series well as a batsman, it gives you a lot of confidence.
"Then you can play on the back of that a bit and really try to turn it into an outstanding series personally and for the team, and cement your spot.
"I don't think there's a lot of one-day cricket before the 2015 World Cup and there's a lot of players looking to shore up a place."
In the end, Australia reached the total that initially appeared challenging but was incrementally dwarfed by England's poor bowling, catching and fielding, with six wickets and 26 balls to spare as Michael Clarke (43), George Bailey (17 not out) and Glenn Maxwell (8 not out) guided their team home.
Earlier, having opted to bat first on a slowish pitch, England battled through some disciplined Australian bowling to post 269 for seven.
--IANS (Posted on 12-01-2014)