SOS GIVES FINN CHANCE TO PROVE HE CAN STILL BE A MATCH­WIN­NER

Derek Pringle ques­tions the call-up of Steven Finn to the Ashes squad and has sim­i­lar con­cerns for an age­ing Stu­art Broad

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS & VIEWS -

The call-up of Steven Finn for Aus­tralia, as part or per­haps even tem­po­rary re­place­ment for Ben Stokes, was an in­ter­est­ing move by Eng­land’s se­lec­tors, the bowler hav­ing en­dured a che­quered his­tory on his two pre­vi­ous Ashes tours.

Finn has height and pace, two phys­i­cal at­tributes well suited to Aussie pitches, which tend to of­fer move­ment in the ver­ti­cal plane only.Yet an Ashes tour Down Un­der is a harsh ex­pe­ri­ence which re­quires a men­tal for­ti­tude Finn has yet to show us he pos­sesses.

Per­haps fault for that lies with his first tour of Aus­tralia in 2010/11, when he took 14 wick­ets in the first three Tests at 33 be­fore he was dropped, os­ten­si­bly for be­ing too ex­pen­sive.

It was a bru­tal call but, as it tran­spired, the right one. Tim Bres­nan came in, gave nowt away, which al­lowed James An­der­son and Chris Trem­lett to keep pres­sure on Aus­tralia’s bats­men en­abling Eng­land to win their first Ashes away from home for 24 years.

For the young, 21-year-old Finn, who had come in to that se­ries with an in­cred­i­ble 32 wick­ets in his first four Tests, the re­jec­tion would have been a ham­mer blow. But while most play­ers would have got­ten over it, even­tu­ally, Finn’s sen­si­tiv­ity has per­haps kept the mem­ory fresh ev­ery time he has been re­called by Eng­land which, due to vari­a­tions in form and fit­ness, has been five times in 36 Tests, six if he gets on the park this win­ter.

Some­thing ma­lign cer­tainly af­fected him last time he toured Aus­tralia. Deemed un-se­lectable by Ash­ley Giles for the one-day se­ries which fol­lowed Eng­land’s 5-0 drub­bing in the Tests, Finn had be­come in­creas­ingly neu­rotic on that trip. In­deed, his per­for­mances in the State games re­vealed a bowler who had rapidly lost faith in both his abil­i­ties and ac­tion. Con­se­quently, he was never re­ally pushed for a Test place de­spite the team los­ing match af­ter match. It took a lot of TLC and time by Mid­dle­sex’s bowl­ing coach, Richard John­son, to re­build him af­ter that, phys­i­cally and men­tally. Both those things oc­curred, af­ter a fash­ion, as he has since played 13 Tests with rea­son­able suc­cess, if not progress Now, though, comes a mo­ment of reck­on­ing, the Stokes far­rago hav­ing pre­sented him with an op­por­tu­nity to be part of a third Ashes tour, a num­ber not many bowlers man­age. Like James Vince, an­other hunch pick over form, Finn is lucky to be on the trip. His 34 wick­ets at 30 for Mid­dle­sex was hardly ex­cep­tional and cer­tainly not enough to stop the county be­ing rel­e­gated. His se­lec­tion has a whiff of ‘last man stand­ing’ about it, too, the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) hav­ing re­moved him for their list of cen­tral con­tracts for the com­ing year.Yet, he should dis­card any thoughts that he is un­de­serv­ing. True com­peti­tors take their chances where and when­ever they present them­selves and Finn, now 28, could yet get an­other crack at show­ing us the bowler we all thought was there when he first came on the scene all those years ago. If Finn has much to prove, Stu­art Broad, be­low, with 388 Test wick­ets to his name, has lit­tle left to achieve save, per­haps, for a lead­ing role in an Ashes se­ries in Aus­tralia. He did take two wick­ets in Eng­land’s fa­mous se­ries win there in 2010/11 be­fore re­turn­ing home in­jured, but his 21 wick­ets there four years ago could not stave off a hu­mil­i­at­ing 5-0 white­wash, some­thing the more gung-ho Aus­tralian com­men­ta­tors are pre­dict­ing once more. Broad is 31, and there is a sug­ges­tion he may be on the down­ward arc. Like Finn, he is a tall fast bowler so there is much to go wrong with both body and ac­tion. At the mo­ment he seems to be strug­gling, phys­i­cally, with his feet and an­kles, while his ac­tion is suf­fer­ing from an er­rant wrist that pushes the ball in to right-han­ders – a con­se­quence, some reckon, from bowl­ing to a slew of left-han­ders in In­dia last win­ter. His fig­ures also re­veal some­thing of a slump and in the 16 Tests since May 2016 he has taken just one haul of four wick­ets or bet­ter in an in­nings, a mod­est show­ing for some­one who takes the new ball. He is, though, a man who tends to re­spond to the big oc­ca­sion so, hope­fully, af­ter be­ing well rested, he is sav­ing up a few five-fors for this win­ter’s Ashes. Eng­land are go­ing to need them.

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