According to many observers of the first Test against Bangladesh, England, in the form of Steven Finn, have found the next Glenn McGrath. Being compared to McGrath, a true all-time great, would be an aim of almost every fast bowler in the world but bracketing Finn with McGrath at such an early stage of his career is premature and somewhat unfair.
Nobody should underestimate the potential of Finn, who left Lord's for Old Trafford with the fine match figures of 9 for 187, but McGrath's record – 563 wickets at an average of 21.64 – is outstanding. McGrath's ability to take wickets on any continent, against any batsman and on any type of pitch is there in the history books for everyone to see. His record for Australia is phenomenal and he performed almost day in, day out for a period of more than 10 years. As Steven told me when I spoke to him yesterday afternoon, he is now only the small matter of 550 Test wickets away from emulating one of his heroes.
Finn had a wonderful Test and he deserved the man-of-the-match award. He outbowled James Anderson and Tim Bresnan, which was no mean feat, and coped exceptionally well with the pressures that come with playing your first Test at Lord's. These are signs that offer great encouragement for the future.
Despite his huge potential it would be unfair and unrealistic of people to place a large portion of England's Ashes expectations at his feet, which they are already trying to do. As well as he bowled, and he has bowled better for Middlesex this season for lesser reward than he did for England, it has to be remembered that this was a Test against Bangladesh at a largely overcast Lord's in May.
The comparisons with McGrath were inevitable because Finn admires the great man and possesses many of his characteristics, in that he is tall, lean and miserly. Finn gets quite close to the stumps and generally angles the ball in to a right-handed batsman too. On paper these commodities do not appear unbelievably sexy but they do allow a fast bowler to extract steep bounce from a pitch, and it is bounce that troubles high quality batsmen more than anything else.
At Middlesex we have been aware of Finn's potential for quite some time. Indeed, when a 6ft 7in athlete who is capable of consistently bowling the ball on a good length at 85mph plus turns up at your indoor cricket school it is hard not to get excited. The challenge has been and is managing his development. A fast bowler is always only one ball away from injury. Finn's first-class statistics in 2009 – 53 wickets at an average of 30.64 – were encouraging but unremarkable, yet the season, and in particular the workload he carried – 420 overs – had a hugely positive influence on his development.
Before then there were mutterings that he was a little soft and injury prone. Steven had no idea whether his body could cope with such rigour, but by coming through the season he proved to himself and his doubters that he could push his body that little bit further and it would not break.
Much can be gleaned from an individual by the way in which they talk to and deal with the media, and my former colleagues inform me that Steven has made an extremely positive impression. He is articulate and honest, which shows a level of maturity beyond many that enter the England fold. This is because he is genuinely interested in what people do and how the media works.
Whether it is on or off the cricket field he wants to learn. Last season I spent several enjoyable hours during Middlesex matches at Lord's chatting with him. His self-analysis is extremely good, in that he wants to remain as emotionally stable as he can from one game to the next, and he is learning not to be over-analytical on technique.
On the eve of our first game of the 2010 season Steven was not happy with his bowling. He was frustrated at not hitting the seam on the ball as often as he wanted or swinging the ball away. I told him not to be so bloody stupid and informed him that McGrath's team-mates used to take the Mickey out of him because he missed the seam so much, but it did not affect his bowling – it is where you pitch the ball that counts. In the next two days he took 14 wickets, including 9 for 37, against Worcestershire.
He is also prepared to take responsibility for his career, actions and life. An example of this came during the winter when we sat down to talk about extending his contract with Middlesex. Most cricketers get an agent to deal with the unpleasant task of talking money with an employer but Steven did it himself. He was not a soft touch, negotiated intelligently and, hopefully, got the deal he wanted.
As I said at the start, Steven's potential is there for everyone to see. The events of the past week will change his life because, statistically, he now has a yardstick to be measured by. His success will not change him because he is surrounded by a good family and good people. Expectations will rise but there will be bad days. It is hoped his career is allowed to develop at a natural rate rather than the rate others want. If this happens he will represent England with distinction for many years to come.
Angus Fraser is Director of Cricket at MiddlesexReuse content