April 17, 2011

Mike Holmans

Steven Finn - new and improved

Mike Holmans
Steven Finn works on his bowling in the nets, Sydney, January 2, 2011
Steven Finn: Improving all the time  © AFP
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I had hoped for more from my first live match of the season, but I didn't even get three days because I couldn't be bothered to trek up to the ground to watch Middlesex knock off 54 runs to win on the third morning. The ball swung, it must be said, but even so Middlesex's batting on the first day was mediocre and on day two Essex really stank the place out.

From such a match there are few highlights to remember. Oddly enough, both the events that caught my eye involved Steven Finn.

The second of these was on the second afternoon, when Alastair Cook had seemed to be making a rather better fist of things than in the morning but popped up a half-chance to which Finn tumbled and completed the caught-and-bowled. It was a surprisingly gymnastic effort from the gangling bowler.

What had been even more surprising, though, was Finn's batting on the first afternoon.

Ravi Bopara had come on to bowl after tea, presumably to help spin things out for the new ball, and had obliged with the quick dismissal of Tim Murtagh, bringing Finn to the crease at number 10. He has previously demonstrated an ability to block and help a proper batsman through to a hundred or to graft out time for a draw but there was little evidence that he could score runs for himself. In 19 innings last season, nine of them not out and most of them for Middlesex, he averaged a princely 4.70 and had a career-best of 26.

In his bulletin for the day , ESPNcricinfo's Sahil Dutta mentioned the ninth-wicket stand as one in which Finn and Ollie Rayner “swung merrily”, which was not inaccurate but risked giving a slightly false impression of tail-end slogging. For at least the first half of his career-best 32, however, Finn did a very passable impression of a proper batsman. There was a sweet on drive which would have made Michael Vaughan happy if he'd played it and a cover drive as crisp and efficient as anything Jonathan Trott produces along with the solid defence which we already knew about. He has adopted the raised-backlift stance which England batting coach Graham Gooch used to employ and approached his batting very positively rather than with mindless aggression. The case which Bopara is trying to assemble in favour of his replacing the retired Paul Collingwood in the England set-up rests partly on his handy bowling, but it will have been set back considerably by his being hit out of the attack by a tail-ender, however improved.

Taken together, these two passages of play show that Finn has profited immensely from his winter tour despite losing his Test place. It would be pushing it to describe Finn as an incipient all-rounder on this scant evidence, but he has returned from Australia a much better cricketer than he was.

It is good to see that even with today's schedules which mean that touring teams play very few games outside the international fixtures, it is still possible for cricketers to continue their development.

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Posted by Keith Hillier on (May 29, 2011, 4:19 GMT)

I am fascinated by all the interest surrounding the likes of Finn and Meaker. Both are talented, but when we examine the stats it is difficult to go past Woakes and Harris. Both compliment their bowling, paricularly the former, with promising batting ability. I would not be surprised to see the England Lions seam attack of the winter tour to the West Indies soon become England's preferred attack.

Posted by trotter109 on (April 24, 2011, 22:07 GMT)

in reply to jon, stuart meaker looks like a he could develop into a serious prospect. at the moment he can be a little wayward but is a wicket taker. not only that he recorded the fastest ever ball at over 96mph at loughborough a couple of years ago. i'll certainly be following his progress with interest this season.

Posted by Sven on (April 23, 2011, 13:53 GMT)

@Mike: Re. a young English bowler with genuine pace, what do you make of Stuart Meaker? I've heard he can bowl up in the 90s and has taken 5-86 against Glamorgan. His bowling stats aren't amazing at the moment but does he have the potential to fulfill the role in the future?

Posted by Sen on (April 20, 2011, 11:35 GMT)

@Mike: That sounds good.

Posted by Jon Rosenberg on (April 20, 2011, 11:21 GMT)

Why am I afraid that the long answer is also 'no'? lol

Posted by Sen on (April 19, 2011, 18:53 GMT)

@Mike: I agree what you said is usually true. I was just wondering, if he is neglecting his "improvement in bowling" to develop his secondary skills. That can happen (e.g. Irfan Pathan). It is like, using your "googly" too much and end up ruining your "stock" ball. Nevertheless, he is a good prospect for England and it would be an exciting sight to see him share the new ball with Broad (I hope he becomes as good as him, if not better).

[Mike: I don't think he's neglecting his bowling at all, but you can't bowl all the time. England are generally proud of their fielding, so all of them practice it a lot, and they have a policy of making the top-order batsmen take a tailender under their wing to improve their batting. In Finn's case, it's clearly working.]

Posted by John Muir on (April 19, 2011, 5:42 GMT)

Finn seems to be very sensible and level-headed. I thought he was handled very well in Australia, getting the chance to play in the early games and being rested when it was clear he was running out of steam. As he gets stronger, he'll get better. With Finn, Woakes and Harris in their early 20s backing up Bresnan, Broad and Shahzad in their mid-20s, plus others like Dernbach in the frame, England has a lot of talent among the young seamers and with Rashid and Briggs England has two outstanding spin prospects, as well. The future looks bright.

Posted by Jon Rosenberg on (April 18, 2011, 23:31 GMT)

England have at present a decent set of seam bowlers, indeed we have more international class seamers than at any other time I can remember. We have one outstanding spinner, a reasonable back up spinner and a several good prospects for spin going forward. Where we are weak is there is no out and out pace bowler to whom to throw the ball. Flintoff is gone, Harmison is never going to play for England again and Mahmood has shown himself to be not of the requisite class. Mike, as someone who gets to see a lot of county cricket, have you spotted anyone who might potentially fill that hole?

[Mike: Short answer, no.]

Posted by Sen on (April 18, 2011, 12:17 GMT)

good that his secondary skills has improved but he should improve his bowling in the first place

[Mike: His bowling looked in good order, though it was difficult to tell given the conditions and rather poor batting. That he can improve his secondary skills so dramatically suggests that he's learning all the time, so no doubt his bowling will improve. If at present he isn't as good as Broad, Tremlett and Anderson, that's no shame for one as young as he is.]

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