Let’s be honest, this test match Steven Finn bowled an absolute load of dross. The two-in-two with the new ball on Day One aside, he was a bystander as Anderson tore through the Aussies, and when called up to bowl, helped push the game Australia’s way with two horrendously bad momentum swinging horror spells as firstly Agar in the first dig, then Haddin in the second cashed in. After dropping a tricky but makeable catch, the lanky paceman looked bereft of confidence and for all the world like he’s getting the heave-ho for Lord’s next week. The only saving grace was at least that someone else called Finn had an even worse day than he did (too soon?)
But I feel sorry for Finn. Things weren’t made easy for him. First up, the pitch did him no favours. Comfortably England’s quickest speedster (sometimes touching 90mph – at least if you believe the speedgun), Finn turned up at Trent Bridge hoping for a quick, bouncy deck and was faced with a slow, low graveyard. England have obviously decided that preparing pitches for spin and seam will give them the best chance of winning this series, which while it brings Anderson and Swann to the fore, pushes Finn right to the periphery. This obviously played into captain Cook’s mind when waiting until the 29th over of the second innings to give Finn the ball – by which time the rock hard new ball that Finn would clearly favour had been reduced to putty, hardly giving Finn the best chance to show off his skills. Add to that the noticeable lack of confidence in Finn from Cook (that spell only lasted three uneventful overs), and with his tail down on a slow pitch with a soft ball, it’s no wonder that Finn disappointed.
One area that Finn can’t excuse however is his use of the short ball. While Ashton Agar played what could well be the innings of his life, Finn helped get him on his merry way by feeding him a variety of long hops and other freebies, giving Agar time and room to swing hard and dispatch the ball with ease. As previously said, the pitch was far too slow for Finn’s “natural” game of banging it in short (note – Finn is far better when he bowls back of a length rather than trying to bounce every ball) which meant that he had very little chance of taking the wicket that would have spoiled everyone’s fun, and was only giving Australia vital runs at a crucial time in the game. While it must be tempting as a six foot plenty giant to try and hit the pitch as hard as he can, it clearly was not the way forward, and Finn needs to be a lot quicker to move to a plan B – or indeed go to a plan B at all.
Despite having a poor test match, Steven Finn is undoubtedly a fine bowler, and has the ability to get some of the world’s best batsmen out. He’s quick, he’s tall and he bowls from very tight to the stumps meaning that any test batsmen should be on their guard when facing him. What is a real shame though is that England aren’t really backing him at the moment. They fiddled around with his run-up to make him bowl right over the stumps, and when he started kicking them over, they fiddled around with it again, which has only served to take a touch of pace away from him. They ask him to continually bowl short in the “enforcer” role that isn’t really his natural game, and they provide him with pitches that clearly don’t suit. The captain doesn’t even give him a bowl until his main asset of the new ball has been softened, giving him next to no chance to succeed - and even if he does start taking wickets, he’s moaned at for not ‘bowling dry’. Finally, it’s clear that England would prefer the runs of a batting-bowler such as Bresnan over Finn’s scratchy defence, even though Finn’s worked so hard at his batting that he even has a test fifty to his name. Finn almost certainly won’t play in the next test given the question marks over his selection coming into Trent Bridge have only got larger, and given likely conditions for the rest of this series, it may be until the Ashes roadshow jumps on a plane in November to Brisbane when he’s considered again. Despite not having a good game here, Steven Finn remains a very good bowler who could easily break all kinds of bowling records for England in test cricket. The only hope is that the odds are a little more in his favour next time.