Match Analysis

Finn fights a losing battle with his demons

Steven Finn has every attribute a fast bowler could hope for, and the best judges in the game believe in him. But his battle is between the ears, not against the batsmen

The crowd in the Eric Hollies stand roar. The ball they have seen is short and fast, to them it has such menace Azhar Ali is ducking for mere survival. But the Hollies stand is side on, and while they see a ball just missing a scared batsman, from front-on it's far different. The ball is wide and short. Azhar has ducked on length, but he could have just stood there and watched the ball fly safely by outside off stump.
The crowd might have seen something fast and dangerous, but Steven Finn didn't.
Just go out there and bowl fast. Whang it. Sling it. Hurl it. Just run up and let go. Don't think. Let it fly. Let it rip. Pace like fire. Get it up 'em. Bounce 'em. Bomb 'em.
It is the sort of advice given to quick bowlers when they are struggling. As if the search for pure speed will somehow clear their mind of mortgage payments, over-coaching and whether they left the stove on. All their troubles will suddenly disappear, now they are focused on one thing, bowling as fast as humanly possible.
At times it has worked. The young quick who has been worried about wrist position and his place in the team, freed of those worries he whips the ball down the other end with a crazy rotating seam, hits someone on the glove, his team mates rush up to pat him on the head, and he's back.
But for others it does the opposite. It is not always possible to just bowl fast. Slight niggles, bad rhythm and slow pitches come into it. And sometimes, trying to bowl fast make bowlers anxious.
Cook said before this Test: "I'll try and tell him to relax and play." If someone tells you to relax, chances are it will make you more tense. It's not advice, it's a phrase you say when you can't come up with something that will actually help.
It was the same Cook who was up till 2am before making a decision to pick the same Finn for this Test. Jake Ball was good at Lord's, without demanding selection over Finn at any point, but still good enough to put pressure on him. But the truth is, if you are up at 2am, and Finn flashes behind your eyes, you want him.
That bounce, that pace, the wickets. No offence to Jake Ball, but there is no highlight reel to compare it to. Finn, at his best, is a human highlight reel.
When telling the press of his selection of Finn, Cook called him a huge talent, but he also said "Finny sometimes can worry too much about it." He was right, twice.
The roar of the Edgbaston crowd is incredible even before Steven Finn takes his first step. Mitch Marsh is facing a hat-trick ball, and all that time out of the game - the breakdown, his "unselectable" status, all that history rubbish - is being blown away by his greatest spell in Test cricket, with a heaving home crowd cheering him into the crease. He doesn't take a hat trick, but he does take six wickets and ensures England win the Ashes.
It was only a year ago, yet when he started this Test, he didn't hit the crease like a man full of fond memories. He bowled short, and wide. He started with three maidens in his first four overs, but they weren't good. His early pitch map to the right-handers looked like he thought Azhar Ali had a weakness to the short wide ball. His pitch map to Sami Aslam was a confusing abstract painting that would have given the bowling coach a headache.
He wasn't scary, he wasn't intimidating, when he hit Sami Aslam it was with a ball that just didn't get up as Aslam shaped to duck. It didn't beat him for pace, it beat him for a lack of hostility.
Every over seemed to get him more frustrated. At times he kicked the turf, when four overthrows were given away he just shook his head like an upset child, and during his last spell he had to leave the field clutching his hamstring. He came back on, bowled unsuccessfully again, clutched his hamstring again. The longer the day went, the sadder he looked.
And when the new ball was taken, it was Joe Root, and not Finn, taking it for the ninth over.
The stories of Steven Finn in Alice Springs are now well told. As are those about how he had to overcome a law change that seemed to almost exclusively target him. Then there was the time he was dropped during the 2010-11 Ashes triumph, despite being the leading wicket-taker of the series. His economy rates didn't fit neatly into the Andy Flower spreadsheet.
His headlines over the years have been about rhythm, unrewarded efforts, frustrations, stepping up, coming back, labours, atonement, stumbles and unselectability. Even his World Cup hat-trick was met with a global cricket shrug. Even now, back in the team, he is a new-ball bowler who is currently bowling second change, and only in the side when someone more fancied is injured. If Anderson, Broad, Woakes and Stokes stay fit, how does he even find his way back in.
He is in a permanent state of flux, there has been no point in his career to date in which he has been safe and happy in the team. His body has been very faithful to him. Other than one stress fracture of the foot, he has managed to stay fit. It is his mind that has struggled to stay in good areas.
One of the questions for today's #PoliteEnquiries was simply, " is Finn finished for the time being?" It is a question that Finn seems to think about out in the field.
There is a spring in Finn's step on day three. England are bowling well, and he has to wait for Anderson and Woakes to finish their spells before he gets his turn, so the second new ball is now 23 overs old. But he instantly gets good shape, his length is better, his line is probing. There isn't blood curdling pace, but he looks good.
One ball beats Sarfraz Ahmed and Finn follows through almost all the way down to him, not to intimidate, but just because he has great rhythm. As Cook put it before the Test, he is a rhythm bowler, which is cricket code for it sometimes works, it sometimes goes horribly wrong. But he does look a different bowler to the one he has at times been earlier in the series. He isn't dawdling between overs, or trudging back to his mark. He is excited.
A full straight ball swings away from Misbah. Misbah has looked well set, but this is quick and gets him in a tangle. England have a silly short floating slip under a helmet for the soft-handed dab edge, but this one flies due to Finn's pace and Misbah's surprise, and the slip is so close that he can barely react as the ball flies through to the boundary.
Later a far more ordinary ball from Anderson finds the inside edge of Misbah's bat, smashes into his back foot, and then rolls onto the stumps.
Batsmen worry about runs, bowlers think in wickets. When former bowlers look at Finn's strike rate, they have a little smile. Because Finn is a wicket-taker. It's not that Finn's average of 29 is especially poor - in fact, it's very good for someone in and out the team - but runs and economy rates are for statisticians, wickets are for bowlers.
Bowlers know there aren't many guys like Finn out there. He may be the height of a tree, but his ilk doesn't grow on them. When he stood with Mikey Holding after play at Lord's for a TV opportunity during the first Test, the height difference was staggering. Mikey is a big man, but Finn towered above him.
Holding is big Finn fan, and he has often seemed baffled when England have turned to other bowlers in his place. Mike Selvey is another fan. Even while Chris Woakes was taking apart Pakistan at Lord's, Selvey remained obsessed with Finn.
And that reason is pace, and height. It excites and frights, depending on whether you are facing or watching it. In Finn's physical attributes there is a 400-plus wicket bowler. But like Morne Morkel, a man of similar physicality, his battle is rarely between him and the batsman, but within himself. He does overthink, he does complicate, he does worry, he does not always know what it is he has done right. There are Andre Nel bowlers who have a fire within them, there are bowlers like Glenn McGrath who have supernatural self-belief, and then there are the Finn and Morkel types. To us on the outside, Finn has all the skills to pick up a Test match and shake it. But to the man himself, it is never that clear.
The ability to be a giant who can bowl fast doesn't mean you are automatically a cold-hearted psycho bowler looking for blood and wickets.
Earlier in the summer Finn talked about the nice things that Holding had said about him. "To have someone who is a great of the game saying nice things about you, just pumping your tyres up a little bit, it's a great feeling." Finn is 6ft7in, can bowl 90 miles an hour, has 120 wickets, at under 30, and takes one every 49 balls. He shouldn't need his tyres pumped up, he should be flying.
Finn is bowling for the last wicket of Pakistan's innings. He is just running in and bowling, trying to keep it simple, clear his mind. Around him Broad and Anderson are scheming, but Finn is in a zone.
Rahat Ali prods at one in a manner that looks like fake slips practice. Cook instantly gets into a great position to take the ball, it carries well due to the extra pace of Finn, and it hits Cook's hands at a comfortable height, but then hits the ground behind him. Finn bends over at the waist like he is in pain, and then he walks back to his mark looking at the big screen. When the drop is shown, he cocks his head to one side as the crowd groan. He gets one more ball at Rahat, who defends it well. That is Finn's last ball of the innings.
When he gets down to fine leg the crowd give him a hearty applause, but he doesn't really react at all.
Alastair Cook, his captain and one of England's best ever batsmen thinks he's a huge talent. Mike Holding, one of the greatest bowlers in cricket history, truly believes in him. Mike Selvey, the best seamer turned cricket writer, is completely in his corner. And the Edgbaston crowd, England's most riotous and raucous, are completely behind him.
But there he was again, down at fine leg, being cheered, and wicketless. Wicketless for the third innings this series. The world can tell him they believe in him. That will not matter, for either one day Finn will understand his game, believe in himself and be the Test bowler he was born to be. Or he won't, and even the hollow applause will stop.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber