Finn on track for early return from knee surgery
Steven Finn is quietly confident of returning to action ahead of schedule after undergoing knee surgery, and could even be fit to play a part in the New Zealand leg of England's winter campaign.
Finn, who was originally called into the squad as a replacement for Ben Stokes, ended up playing no part in the Ashes after tearing the cartilage of his left knee during England's first nets session in Perth.
The injury at the time seemed like a freak occurrence, which happened when he bent over to retrieve a ball that had become lodged in the netting. However, he said, it had been the culmination of a long battle to stay on top of his fitness.
"I've had degenerative tears in my meniscal cartilage in my knees for quite a while now," he said. "It's been painful but I got through the summer.
"I clipped the ball off my legs on to the side netting and went to pick the ball up out of the net and just collapsed into a heap on the floor," he said. "Something in that twisting motion must have triggered the cartilage to get really annoyed and, when the surgeon went in there, he saw a decent chunk of cartilage floating around in my knee and that's what was causing me the discomfort.
"I couldn't walk, I couldn't bend my knee. It was really uncomfortable. I knew then that I was struggling. The medical staff did everything possible to get me fit to play a part in the series, but it took me five or six days to consider walking, so the writing was on the wall in that regard."
However, Finn showed no signs of discomfort whatsoever during a Chance to Shine and NatWest visit to his old primary school in Watford, and even dived full-length for the crease during a cricket session with the pupils.
"I've actually recovered a lot better than what anyone thought I would," Finn said. "I've had a decent-sized surgery - cartilage removed and then a tumour from the knee removed. The recovery was initially set out at 12 weeks but it looks like I'm going to beat that quite considerably. It's moving around a lot better."
With England's fortunes looking bleak during the current Ashes, there may yet be cause for a shake-up in the squad's bowling stocks ahead of the New Zealand leg of the winter, which gets underway with limited-overs cricket in the New Year, ahead of two Tests in March. Finn, however, is not getting ahead of himself just yet.
"I'm not sure exactly when I'll be back," he said. "I'm ahead of schedule. We'd pretty much written the whole winter off, but given how quickly and well it has progressed over the next couple of weeks since I've had the surgery, the New Zealand Test tour could be a realistic possibility.
"But I'm just going to see what happens and if it keeps progressing at the rate it is, there's a good chance I could be fit for that.But if I rush it, that could be bad for the future."
Chance to Shine has developed free digital cricket resources for primary schools available from chancetoshine.org The charity has partnered with NatWest to give all young people the opportunity to play and learn through cricket #NoBoundaries
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @miller_cricket