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February 14, 2013
Steven Finn is confident that he is getting close to solving the problems in his delivery stride which can lead to the costly impact of his knee against the non-striker's stumps.
Finn has been denied two international wickets in such circumstances, with the delivery being called dead-ball - when he had Graeme Smith caught at slip at Headingley last year and Suresh Raina edging to the same position during the one-day series in January.
The ruling now is that Finn gets one warning per series and after that the delivery will be called dead-ball by the umpires. Finn is at that point in the Twenty20 series against New Zealand, having knocked the stumps in the opening match in Auckland, and continues to focus on the issue with England's bowling coach David Saker during training sessions.
"It's getting there, getting better ... and it'll be gone soon," he said. "It's not something that can preoccupy my mind in the game, because I can't allow it to. But every day in training I'm working hard on trying to eradicate it.
"I have been for the last four months. It's something that's obviously going to have to improve, and it is. I'm trying different things, and out in the game it's not happening as frequently as it used to. So I hope there will be a stage where it's completely eradicated."
There have been various theories put forward as to the best way for Finn to avoid the problem, including changing the angle of his run-up to shorten his approach to the crease or jumping wider in delivery. While any of these may not appear drastic, it is difficult for a bowler, so ingrained in an action they have used for years, to make changes, especially when the next match is just around the corner.
"I've got the marker, where I jump from, and I'm trying to jump in a straighter line," he said. "But the amount of cricket we play, I haven't had too much time to actually go away and spend a lot of time working on it.
"You let it occupy your mind in practice. But when you're out there on the field, there's only one thing that matters - and that's getting the person out at the other end. When I'm out there in the middle, it's not in my mind at all."
There has been mixed reaction from New Zealand to Finn's habit although there appears to be a consensus that the only time the ball should not count is when a wicket falls. They first encountered it during the World Twenty20, where Finn was Man of the Match in the Super Eight contest, and Ross Taylor, who was then the New Zealand captain, said "it's a rule for one person". In that match, New Zealand were denied runs on more than one occasion by Finn breaking the stumps and a dead-ball being called.
During this series Ian Butler, the New Zealand seamer, has said that the fact Finn disturbing the stumps would not distract the batsman at the other end. The current captain, Brendon McCullum, suggested that it can be slightly off-putting, however.
"The rule has been laid down. I'm sure it will continue to be assessed as we go along," he said. "It can be slightly distracting. It's not ideal - and I'm sure, knowing Finny, he is trying to improve that aspect of his performance."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the day from the fourth ODI between Australia and South Africa at the MCG