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A place in Tests still eludes Steven Finn, but his one-day form is making a very strong case for a recall
George Dobell in Dubai
February 19, 2012
There is a stifled groan when Steven Finn appears to talk to the UK media. It is not that Finn is unfriendly or unpopular - far from it - more that, well, his press conferences can be a little bit bland.
That is not to say Finn is bland in everyday life. By all accounts, he is fine, easy-natured company with a sharp wit and ready smile. But, compared to some of his England colleagues - the likes of Graeme Swann or Kevin Pietersen - Finn offers the media very little in the way of 'sound bites.'
And why should he? Finn's job - and it is a job he is becoming very good at it - is to take the new ball for club and country and dismiss opposition batsmen. At present it is a role he is fulfilling only in limited-overs cricket at international level. Soon it will be a role he is fulfilling in the Test team. If you could invest in young men, you would put your shirt on him.
Finn, 22, has been one of the stars of England's ODI team in the UAE. He has claimed 11 wickets in the three games and has played a large part in helping England secure an unassailable 3-0 lead with one game to play. His bowling average in the series is just 8.36 and he has conceded a thrifty 3.06 runs per over. Even in a seam attack including such fine established international bowlers as James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Finn has stood out. Indeed, he has looked the best of the trio.
When it comes to the attributes of a top-quality fast bowler, Finn has a full hand. He has pace and height. He has an easy, repeatable action. He has stamina and strength and, now, he seems to have developed the skills to trouble good batsmen on good surfaces. It is not that he has just learned how to swing and reverse swing the ball, or that he now seems to gain more seam movement, it is that he has put the whole package together and added the vital ingredient - consistency - to his game.
Finn's bowling in the ODI series has been immaculate. He has maintained a horrid, nagging length that has left batsmen unsure whether to play forward or back, he has nipped the ball both ways off the seam and gained some swing. And he has done it all at pace. He has regularly exceeded 90mph and left a batsman as experienced as Younis Khan saying how surprised - and impressed - he was with Finn's aggression and hostility. With such a record, it is understandable that Finn reserves his eloquence for the pitch.
"I like to let my bowling do the talking," he said. "You can have all the bravado that you want, but if you bowl a heap of rubbish it's not going to help. It is important you back your words with actions and thankfully I've been doing that this series. Body language is definitely something that's important for a fast bowler and hopefully it's something I've added to my game."
ECB wait on Sri Lanka plans
In a weaker era of England cricket, a bowler of Finn's ability would already be a fixture in the Test side. As it is, however, he may need to be patient to displace Anderson and Broad - who are highly likely to form the two-man seam attack that England will field in Sri Lanka - while Tim Bresnan's excellent record and all-round skills also give him an edge.
"I feel as if I'm ready to play Test cricket," Finn said. "It's not in my hands whether I do or not. All I can do is keep trying to perform in every game that I'm picked to play. Every time I bowl well for England it does me no harm and I've targeted that Test place. By no means am I expecting to be in that Test team. It's just something I'm working towards.
"Test cricket is where I want to be. It's something I want to do for the rest of my career. By no means do I think I deserve to walk straight into that Test team. I haven't done myself any harm by bowling relatively well out here, so we'll see where we are if I'm picked in the Sri Lankan squad. I'm improving all the time."
For now Finn must be consoled by the knowledge that he is playing a large part in the improvement in England's limited-overs form. After the 5-0 ODI defeat England suffered in India and the 3-0 Test series defeat they suffered here, Finn feels England's performances in the UAE speak volumes for the character of the side and their hopes of challenging in the 2015 World Cup.
"It's important to win this ODI series," he said. "It's good for character building. We lost 5-0 in India and lost the Test series 3-0, so to come back and be 3-0 up in a four-match series is a very good effort mentally and physically. We've proved to ourselves that we can play in the sub-continent and we've developed plans that work in the sub-continent. We're just striving towards this 2015 World Cup. We've put a team together that can, hopefully, stay together 'til then and if we do that, this will put us in good stead.
"I wouldn't say winning the ODI series makes up for losing the Tests. But I would say that it shows we've improved and adapted to the conditions. To win here and have the chance to make it 4-0 on Tuesday is a great opportunity for us to ram home what a good ODI side we've become."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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