Monday 13 February 2012

You'll not see nothing like the mighty Finn...

Steven Finn began his England career back in March of 2010 at Chittagong, taking a wicket in each innings on his way to match figures of 2-97 against lowly Bangladesh; an unobtrusive international bow by any strike bowlers standards.

As a tall, rangy fast-medium seamer clocking speeds in the mid-eighties the Middlesex youngster didn’t prove much of a revelation for an English cricketing nation that was on the lookout for their next serial speedster. Despite his rather more impressive returns in two home Test matches against the same opponents of 15 wickets at an average of 17.87, Finn remained a raw talent with wicket taking ability but a tendency to lack control.

In the aftermath of those series, opinion on Finn was split. A genuine wicket taker that is worth the additional runs he would concede, proclaimed some; a tad too expensive for Test cricket, contended others.
Steven Finn - The real deal?

England's selectors, it transpires, sided with the others. Nevertheless, no secret was made of the faith that was held in the promise of this 6ft 7” seamer, and the precautionary measure of safeguarding an earmarked future star against the type of stress injuries that so often plague a young body put through the rigours of fast bowling was henceforth adopted.

Off Finn went, tasked with undertaking a strength and conditioning programme made to measure by England's fitness gurus, and as a result being declared unavailable for upcoming ODI series against Bangladesh and Australia, just as it seemed he might be finding his size 12 feet on the international stage.

When questioned as to the benefits of such a programme, Finn responded saying “it makes you more robust.” Cue jokes from England’s inexorable jester, Graeme Swann, leading to the off-spinner even holding a Twitter competition for his followers entitled ‘what is Steven Finn as robust as?’ Rather amusingly, the winner’s entry answered ‘relatively robust compared to Humpty Dumpty in a mosh pit.’

Jokes and criticism of his removal from the front line aside, however, Finn was soon to show that this was no yarn, with the discernible change in pace and accuracy wrought since undergoing the strength and conditioning regime proving nothing short of remarkable.  Accuracy, it can be argued, comes with experience and endless practice, but to have reached a point where speeds of 95mph have been recorded from his bowling fully vindicates the decision made by England’s management.

Following England’s resounding clattering of India in the late English summer of 2011, a Test series where he was overlooked in favour of Tim Bresnan, Finn might have been forgiven for wondering when his next opportunity in an England shirt would materialise. He wasn’t to wait long however; with James Anderson being rested for the subsequent ODI tour of India Finn played in all five defeats in what was a disastrous series for the tourists.

Ironically, it was that very trouncing by the world's then number one ODI side that was arguably the announcement of Finn’s true arrival on the world stage. Emphatically waving goodbye to the fast-medium mediocrity with too many a ‘four-ball’ thrown in, the reinvented Finn bowled with express pace, hostility and consistency on batsmen friendly pitches, ultimately leaving India as perhaps the one England player to emerge with their reputation enhanced.

Finn’s latest act of speed induced carnage saw Pakistan on the receiving end this afternoon, blowing away their top order and almost single-handedly reducing their run chase to mere rubble in the Abu Dhabi desert, on his way to career best ODI figures of 4-34 as England romped home to a resounding 130 run win.

A true measure of Steven Finn’s progress will ultimately be taken inside the Test arena, as and when his next call arrives. After acquiring a pronounced deal of control to compliment his new found wheels, such an opportunity should not be long in coming, and the addition of a genuinely fast bowler to the already sublime England bowling ranks will not be welcomed by their rivals, one would imagine.

English fans have heard a fair bit of noise from their Australian adversaries of late regarding their own young speedsters in Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, but based on recent performances England have a future superstar to match them all in the mighty Finn.

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