New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 5th day March 10, 2013

Match-saving start for new nightwatchman Finn

A near five-hour vigil in his first stint as nightwatchman places Steven Finn's innings along side some notable efforts down the years for England

Steven Finn does not have a bat sponsor at the moment. Someone has missed out on almost five hours of valuable airtime after Finn surprised everyone, including a former team-mate and his current captain, with his performance on the final day in Dunedin.

He had emerged shortly before the close of the fourth day, for the first time in the role, after Alastair Cook edged behind to end an opening stand of 231. His job was to protect Jonathan Trott so that the specialist batsman could negotiate the final day. In the end, Finn outlasted Trott and Kevin Pietersen during a 203-ball stay.

Given that Nick Compton fell shortly after the first hour, Pietersen departed cheaply and two quick wickets fell after tea it is not inconceivable that, had Finn failed, or even been dismissed a couple of hours earlier, England may not have saved the match. When he went from 53 to 54 after fifty dot balls there was a slightly embarrassed look on his face. There was no need.

The secret behind his success? According to Cook, it's a bribe that he did not want to reveal but that Finn, himself, later said was four cases of wine from the captain and James Anderson, two from each for surviving two sessions.*

"Bribing Steven, that if he got through a certain number of overs, seemed to work so we might apply that again. It will remain a secret but he gets well rewarded for his efforts today. He's done very well out of a few of the lads.

"The way Steven applied himself was fantastic, I certainly didn't know he had that in him - I don't think he did either - but it shows when you really put your mind to something and are really disciplined on a flat wicket anyone can make themselves hard to get out."

Brendon McCullum, who spent time with Finn during his stint in New Zealand domestic cricket, was equally surprised about the innings. "He played at Otago and I've seen his batting before. He's certainly worked on it."

The knock was a product of lengthy net sessions, particularly with batting coach Graham Gooch and his throw-down tool which helped improve the solid forward defence that made plenty of appearances this innings. The middle of the bat was often elusive, but Finn played late and, generally, with soft hands. Gooch lives for such success by the batsmen he works with. This will have given him as much pleasure as a Cook or Ian Bell century.

Finn ticked off a host of personal landmarks; highest Test score (for the second time in the game), highest first-class score, maiden Test fifty. The half-century was greeted with a rather apologetic lift of the bat. Across the two innings in this Test he faced more deliveries (243) than he had in his previous 17 Tests. Against South Africa last year he was at No. 11 so his batting has progressed in a short space of time.

Finn has assumed the nightwatchman role from James Anderson, who did the job on 21 occasions. The most recent, and now likely to be last when Finn is alongside him, was against India in Ahmedabad, where he fell for 2 on the second evening before seeing through the overs.

Anderson put in some battling stints - notably against South Africa at Headingley in 2008 when he was roughed up by Dale Steyn - but is not going to be taking the position back any time soon. "It was a good selection," Cook said. "We've always know Steven has a solid defence and he showed that today."

Nightwatchman statistics can be a grey area - for example a couple of times Anderson batted at No. 8 to protect Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, while Mark Boucher has innings classed as being a nightwatchman - but Finn's effort was acknowledged as the second longest for England after Jack Russell's 304-minute marathon against West Indies at Bridgetown in 1990. Russell's innings was not enough to save the team on that day; Curtly Ambrose blew the lower order away to finish with 8 for 45. No one in the New Zealand attack was capable of that sort of impact. That was not the first time Russell made a name for himself in that position; on Test debut, against Sri Lanka in 1988, he reached 94 before driving a wide delivery to cover.

The last England batsman to have such success in the position also came against New Zealand. Alex Tudor is most often remembered for his unbeaten 99 at Edgbaston in 1999 - the high point of a depressing summer for the home side - and would have reached three figures if not for Graham Thorpe finishing things swiftly.

The University Oval in Dunedin is no stranger to nightwatchman heroics this season and Finn's pales into comparison alongside that of Nick Beard, the Otago bowler, who made 188 in 380 balls and 461 minutes against Auckland last month. Beard, 23, is regarded as more of a bowler who bats - perhaps a Graeme Swann or a Broad - but that remains a considerable achievement.

Not, however, quite as impressive, or famous, as Jason Gillespie who made an unbeaten double hundred against Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2006. It did not do much to prolong Gillespie's career - that was his final Test.

Perhaps, though, one of the better nighwatchman stories involves the former Sussex offspinner, and from 2005 to 2006, MCC president, Robin Marlar. Playing for Rest of England against Surrey in 1955 he was out, stumped, second ball for 6 against Tony Lock. He is believed to have said to his captain: "Told you I wasn't a nightwatchman." That is certainly not what Finn will be telling Cook.

*0800GMT, March 11: The story was update to make mention of Finn's wine

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Syed on March 13, 2013, 21:38 GMT

    Wouldnt it make sense if bowlers were better batsmen, considering they know where to bowl and what will happen.... lool

  • Dummy4 on March 12, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Finn does bowl the ball at a better length normally. I think to be honest it was a bit of rust and the fact he came off the limited over games why he was so short. Hopefully he makes the adjustment for the next game. Also McCullum is a class player and does that to a lot of attacks. That situation was ripe for him, he is after all the best T20 player in the world. So a swing at everything situation would of been something he would of loved. I think Broad will never be a line and length bowler. I do wish he would pitch up a little more but he is a wicket taker and has an ability to make the batsman play shots. Its why he can be expensive but is also why on his day he gets a lot of quick wickets.

  • Josh on March 11, 2013, 0:59 GMT

    I couldn't agree with Landl47 more: Being tall and fast actually becomes a hindrance (in terms of wicket taking at least) if pitching consistently too short. The case in point is Steve Harmison - In his hay days when he was running through teams he was bowling a much fuller length which demanded the batsmen played it. Because of his pace and bounce he was still hitting batsmen in the ribs and gloves off this full length (tell me anyone who would want to face that?).The same was true of Tremlett before he got injured. He looked lethal against Sri Lanka because he was bowling largely full of a length but still getting the ball to bounce over stump high.

    Don't get me wrong banging the ball in is obviously hostile and intimidating, but from 6'8 if its halfway down the track its far easier for the batsmen to read and avoid than if it is pitching around the 6-8" mark. If Finn and Broad could hit those lengths more they'd be real weapons and international level.

  • John on March 10, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    @landl47 on (March 10, 2013, 13:02 GMT), fast bowlers are not reputed, fairly or unfairly, not to be the sharpest tools in the shed. At the end of the last home series against SL, Broad's place in the team was being questions in all quarters. He was picked against India and was a big factor in a 4-0 series win, with everyone hailing the fact that the difference was his pitching the ball up. A year and a half later and here we are again, lamenting his bowling too short again. Broad's a tall man so his length needs to be that little further up to compensate. Finn's taller again so everyone but a fast bowler knows what he needs to do. Against McCullum in particular it should be obvious that the short ball is only going to bring pain. While he can play all the shots, he going to hurt you most if you give him short stuff he can hit through, or over, the on side.

  • John on March 10, 2013, 13:02 GMT

    He batted well- good for him. Now let's talk about his bowling. 1-102, with the one being a tailender, isn't going to cut it. Both he and Stuart Broad bowled too short.

    This is not rocket science. 90% of dismissals are bowled, LBW or caught. A tall bowler bowling too short takes 2 of the 3 out of the equation. It's why Freddie Flintoff was a scary bowler but not a particularly successful one. He only took 5 wickets in an innings 3 times in 79 tests. Compare that with Jimmy Anderson who in 78 tests has taken 5fers 12 times.

    Finn and Broad have to learn that they must bowl a fuller length. Yes, they'll get driven sometimes, but they'll take far more wickets. With their height, they'll still get plenty of lift and it's lift from a good-length ball that gets wickets. Watch some film of Glenn McGrath- Pigeon knew where to put the ball and it wasn't halfway down the pitch.

    Both Finn and Broad are potentially excellent bowlers. All they have to do is adjust their length.

  • John on March 10, 2013, 12:29 GMT

    LOL @FFL's usual anti Aus bias , but on a serious note Finn's job (on the day) should not be understated. The biggest bthreat to Eng was the new ball and he stayed at the crease for so long it must have helped out the likes of KP,Bell and Root. I just hope we don't have any serious comms about Finn becoming an all rounder. He'll prob not score more than 20-25 in an inns for the rest of his Eng career

  • j on March 10, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Steven Finn is without a doubt the world's best number 10, and probably better than all of Australia top six 'batsmen' combined. Add to that the fact he bowls at 148kphs and you've got yourself a world class all round player.

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