Steven Finn: England's next great fast bowler?
In stark contrast to their dismal showing in the Test series, England’s 4-0 One Day International whitewash of Pakistan offered a huge amount of positives. Alastair Cook was deservedly crowned as ‘Player of the Series’; his consistent scoring at an outstanding strike rate must surely have banished any lingering doubts about his efficacy as a One Day player. Kevin Pietersen finally played his way into some form after a torrid run in the Tests with consecutive centuries in the last two matches, which hopefully bodes well for the rest of England’s winter in the subcontinent. However, the most encouraging facet of the series came in the form of the continued resurgence of Steven Finn.
It seems ridiculous to describe the “resurgence” of a cricketer who is still only 22 years old. Yet the Steven Finn who in this series took 13 Pakistani wickets at an average of just over 10, all at an economy of under 3.5 runs per over, is unrecognizable to the one who was unceremoniously dropped in the middle of last winter’s Ashes series, despite being at that point the leading wicket taker on either side. For the casual fan, or those watching condensed highlights packages, the decision to drop Finn seemed harsh. Yet to put it bluntly, he was bowling poorly. He was taking wickets at relatively regular intervals, and occasionally bowling balls of real quality, yet was frustratingly erratic and expensive.
It was the first real test of Finn’s Test career, after bursting onto the scene the previous summer in a series of comfortable victories against lesser opponents, and he looked worryingly exposed. Tim Bresnan took his place, and excelled in the final two Tests of England’s victorious campaign, leapfrogging the Middlesex seamer in England’s fast bowling pecking order. Finn has played a solitary test since being axed, against Sri Lanka last summer, in which he became the youngest Englishman to 50 Test wickets.
These days, Finn is a completely different prospect. The signs were there during England’s recent One Day series in India, where a jaded, under strength England were annihilated 5-0. Finn stepped into the void created by the absence of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad to provide the only real consolation for English fans, leading the attack with a series of increasingly confident displays.
In the Pakistan series, however, Anderson and Broad were also in the team; Finn simply outbowled them. Now that he is able to maintain a lethally consistent line and length, he finally looks like the bowler that he threatened to be when he first burst onto the scene. Standing at 6ft 7, he has always been able to generate prodigious bounce, especially as he now bowls with genuine pace; throughout the winter he has been clocked regularly at speeds above 90mph.
So after England’s humbling 3-0 Test series defeat, it seems a fitting time for Finn to be recalled to the Test side. It’s not that simple. Firstly, it is important to recognise that whilst England’s batting performances were abject, their bowling attack performed admirably throughout, bowling with courage, patience and skill on often unrewarding pitches. Furthermore, with England’s next series in Sri Lanka, it seems unlikely that Andy Flower will deviate from playing two spinners; with Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson irreplaceable, it seems that Finn will have to wait a little while longer for his chance.
Indeed, even when England inevitably revert to playing three seamers against the West Indies in May, Finn may have to stay patient. Whilst Chris Tremlett’s continuing back problems have curtailed his international career, Tim Bresnan should be available once more, and it is possible that the Yorkshireman’s superior ability with the bat may count in his favour.
Whilst he may have to be patient, if he stays fit and in form it seems inevitable that Finn will return to the Test arena. When he does, don’t bet against him becoming one of England’s all time greats.