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May 21, 2011
Steven Finn's performance in the Lions match at Derby has been the story of his season - feeling like he's bowling well without getting the rewards to show for it. He went wicketless in the first innings, but claimed two important scalps in the second to help the Lions begin the process of chipping away at the Sri Lankans after an opening stand of 200.
With Tim Bresnan suffering a torn calf there is a pace-bowling vacancy in the England squad which will be announced on Monday, although the chosen player is unlikely to play in Cardiff ahead of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett.
Finn has fallen down the pecking order since being dropped after the third Ashes Test and Ajmal Shahzad, who has taken three wickets in the Lions match, is at the head of the queue. Finn, though, believes he has made significant strides since Australia and is far more comfortable with his own game.
"The figures don't suggest that I bowled particularly well, but this is probably the best I've felt this season," he said. "This season I've felt a lot better than before, and a marked improvement on where I was in Australia."
"I've been steady and consistent but haven't quite had the eye-catching performances. But I feel far better about my cricket, and in far better place than I did when I was in Australia."
However, Finn understands that there is now huge competition for England's fast-bowling places. He is ready to deal with the disappointment of not being in the line-up at the start of the season, but has set his sights on proving his worth.
"There are guys who performed very well in Australia and people who've done very well in domestic cricket this season and have been taking wickets," he said. "I'm open to criticism, and I didn't bowl as well as I should or could have done in Australia. To come back on to home soil and have a chance to put that right has been great. I've always got something to prove to people that I'm good enough to get into any given Test squad."
Finn's two wickets of Tillakaratne Dilshan, who made a 110-ball 117, and Kumar Sangakkara meant the Lions were able to regain their grip on the match during the afternoon session. Overall, though, it was a much-improved display from the visitors and with Thilan Samarweera still at the crease they'll hope to extend the lead beyond 200 on the final day.
"We applied ourselves a lot better today," Stuart Law, Sri Lanka's coach, said. "I think we learnt from the first innings. These are very different conditions from where the boys have come from. The ball has swung, there has been a bit of pace and bounce in the pitch and the England guys have bowled very well."
While Dilshan played the most entertaining innings, the role of Tharanga Paranavitana was equally important and Law believes he can play a vital role in the Test series. "He's only played a few games of Test cricket but he's really impressed," he said. "He got a hundred against India last year and can certainly play. He's the perfect foil for Dilshan who just plays his game while he digs in and did that beautifully today."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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