Bresnan and Finn aim to build on winter success
Forming a successful Test team can take years of work, but sometimes a couple of crucial building blocks slot in almost out of nowhere. Six months ago neither Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn were at the head of the pack for pace-bowling slots, yet both will now line-up against Bangladesh at Lord's with the aim of pushing their claims for a more permanent place.
As is often the case, ill-luck to others presented their opportunities. Ryan Sidebottom and Graham Onions both went lame before the first Test in Bangladesh during March - and the latter is now ruled out for at least another three months - leaving the England selectors searching for replacements. Bresnan's consistent one-day form meant his was a logical progression, while Finn was summoned to the squad having impressed for the Lions in UAE.
Both slotted straight into the line-up in the searing heat of Chittagong and Dhaka on pitches devoid of any life. But it was the tough conditions which allowed the pair to enhance their reputations. Bresnan showed the knack of breaking partnerships with reverse swing and suggested he could handle the No. 7 spot, while Finn, even on deathly slow pitches, found troublesome bounce with useful pace.
However, while both emerged during the same series that's where the similarities end. With Bresnan you have the stocky, northern allrounder who has had to fight hard to get himself in shape, then there is the beanpole, 6'7'' frame of Finn who has battled to add the bulk needed to be a fast bowler.
"I did myself a lot of favours in Bangladesh with the way I bowled, but especially the way I batted," Bresnan said. "I grabbed the chance with both hands which is what you need to do to force you way into a team.
"But I realised I needed a good start in county cricket so decided to play as much as I could for Yorkshire and I realised I'd be difficult to leave out if I had a successful start to the season."
Bresnan has just returned from playing a key role in England's World Twenty20 triumph where his all-round reputation was further boosted, but Finn has spent the last six weeks in the more humble surrounds of Division Two Championship action for Middlesex. He started the season with an almighty bang by claiming 14 wickets in the match against Worcestershire and has 29 scalps at 18.68 for the season.
There is already a feeling that the England management see him as an Ashes weapon with his height a potentially crucial factor on hard Australian pitches, but the 21-year-old is trying to keep himself firmly focussed on the week ahead.
"Even six months ago I wasn't expecting an international debut in 2010," Finn said. "I'm just taking each game as it comes and that's all I can do and it will stand me in good stead.
"Bangladesh was a great experience, playing on wickets like that which I have never played on before. You don't experience decks that flat here, and it's nice to bowl a green seamer in April after slugging it out on those wickets. I've started the season well and taken a few wickets but each game is a new day."
If England's plans continue to take shape as expected, two of England's pace attack in Australia will be James Anderson and the currently resting Stuart Broad. Then it depends on whether it's a five-man or four-man attack as to how many berths are vacant. Onions is losing ground with his untimely injury so both Bresnan and Finn could jump ahead during the summer, although there is no such thing as too many quick bowlers to chose from.
"The way it's happened over the last couple of years means we have a crop of seamers that can do a job in Test cricket," Bresnan said. "Anyone who has played has been quite successful and long may that continue because one seamer isn't going to play every game, it isn't humanly possible.
"This is how it's got to be know because we play so much cricket. Test cricket is very intense, a lot more so than county cricket, and you can't get away with 75% and be successful. As long as you have quality guys playing all the time, which we have, we should be able to maintain the standards."
The balance of the England side is a key question which needs answering this season and Bresnan will be central to the debate of four bowlers or five. Andy Flower is a huge supporter and Bresnan's 91 in Dhaka hinted that No. 7 isn't out of his reach at Test level.
"In the last six to eight months I've gone the other way and spent a lot more time working on my batting," he said. "My bowling is at a stage where it just needs fine-tuning, I feel I have the skill and accuracy. It's not that I don't work on it, but it takes a backburner at practice because we bowl so much anyway.
"I've always know I could score runs at Test level it's just about the application. I can play in Test cricket, no problem, as an allrounder," he said. "It's nice for the captain and coach when there is someone down the order who can get big runs."
Finn's role is more one-dimensional but his development could be even more vital to England's chances. They are craving a tall, quick bowler to replace Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff with Finn being the closest available on the domestic scene. Finn will hope that Andrew Strauss gives him the Pavilion End at Lord's when his turn comes with the ball, which is the end from which his role model was at his best.
"I have my idols like Glenn McGrath, in my opinion the best bowler to play the game, and it's nice to play in the environment he was in a few years ago and see what I can do," he said. "I'm still learning about my game. I've spoken a lot to Gus [Angus Fraser, the Middlesex director of cricket] about this and I don't want to be like anyone else. I want to bowl how I can with my style but it's hard to put my finger on what that is."
But will a strike or stock role be Finn's route? "It would be great to combine the two. It would be nice to have a lot of pace and be able to control it - that's the ideal fast bowler - and everyone who plays cricket should try and make themselves as good as they can. At the moment I'm somewhere between the two but no way am I the finished article."
There is still a chance that neither Finn or Bresnan will feature in Brisbane come November 25, but the fact both are now in the mix shows how far they have developed in a short space of time.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo