England v India, 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge August 29, 2014

England face dilemma in fine tuning attack

With Chris Jordan blowing more cold than hot, England could turn to Steven Finn or Harry Gurney at Trent Bridge but both present their own issues

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The ability to play tunes on your teeth, which occasionally found its way onto the bottom of the bill in the old Music Halls, is now most commonly seen from bored teenagers on YouTube. England's bowling coach, David Saker, has so far only been seen scratching his, but he might well be playing a tune or two by the end of the Royal London one-day series if England's pace bowlers give him any more cause for angst.

If Saker does rap out a tune on his molars then Elvis Presley's Trouble might be a good place to start. "If you are looking for trouble, you came to the right place" is a suitable warning as England consider the attributes of the three pace bowlers thought to be contesting the final place in the third Royal London ODI against India at Trent Bridge.

Saker's teeth scratching on the England balcony was caught by the TV cameras during India's trouncing of England at Cardiff as Chris Jordan purveyed an over including five leg-side wides. He bowled 12 in all, treating his loss of line firstly with smiles and then with baffled shakes of the head.

That Jordan blows hot and cold is something England might have to get used to. The question is how hot and how cold. His technical oddity in which he often places an additional finger behind the ball has always been with him and has been blamed for occasional forays down the leg side. One or two can be forgiven as long as his hot spells continue, but 12 wides is more than England would want their entire attack to bowl in a series.

The defence for Jordan is that to some extent MS Dhoni was old-manning him by moving across to the off side as he prepared to release, but if that sometimes made his line look more exaggerated, it did not make the calls of wide any less justifiable. Jordan lost his line at a critical time and was wayward enough, in normal circumstances, for his place to be jeopardised as a result.

The issue for England is that the potential replacements, Harry Gurney and Steven Finn, have had issues of their own. Finn's have been well chronicled - the collapse of his action in Australia last winter which meant that he did not play a single Test and left the tour early for remedial work on his action back at Middlesex.

Finn's progress throughout the county summer has been solid, if unspectacular. By mid-July, he was able to discuss it for the first time, telling ESPNcricinfo that he began to over-analyse every aspect of his action and that Saker, who is generally regarded as a tactical rather than a technical coach, was unable to find a solution.

At some point in this series, England surely must play Finn. There has been so much emphasis upon stable planning, particularly when the subject turns to the one-day captaincy of Alastair Cook, that it has been overlooked that the build-up to the World Cup offers England not just the chance to plan, but the chance to discover.

If there is a limited appetite for discovery when it comes to England's batsmen, such a policy is essential for Finn. England's next one-day series is against Sri Lanka in November and December and that is hardly the easiest place for an out-and-out fast bowler to make an impression. To take Finn to Australia - the scene of his technical torment - in January for the tri-series against Australia and India still not road-tested would be a failure of planning and, if his problems recurred, would throw England's plans into disarray a few weeks before the World Cup. Only by thrusting Finn into the pressure of international cricket can England measure the extent of his recovery.

That leaves Harry Gurney, who would add variety to England's attack by virtue of being a left-armer and who would also be a natural call-up on his home ground at Trent Bridge. Gurney played in England's Spring ODIs, making his debut against Scotland in Aberdeen, playing five ODIs against Sri Lanka and returning nine wickets at 22.55. He hit his yorkers more reliably, but there is a lot that could go wrong in such an idiosyncratic action.

But Gurney's form has not been short of concerns. He was unimpressive during Nottinghamshire's Royal London domestic campaign and in his last outing disappeared at eight an over against Warwickshire, a match Nottinghamshire won thanks to one of four recent one-day hundreds for Alex Hales. His net sessions have not made an irresistible case for his recall.

It is a tough choice for England. That Jordan has displayed star quality is incontestable. Finn must be given a chance to prove himself. Gurney has logical hopes of a recall in front of his home crowd. Outside the squad, Northants' allrounder David Willey has not entirely given up hope of making a late push. Which one to recommend? Even now. Saker's teeth must be beginning to grind.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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