Angus Fraser: Finn shows talent but he must develop a McGrath mean streak
The 21-year-old bowled just one maiden. At the Adelaide Oval, Finn needs to increase that tally considerably
Tuesday 30 November 2010
There have been more dramatic Ashes debuts than Steven Finn's in Brisbane but producing career-best Test figures of 6 for 125 on your first outing against the "old foe" is a pretty good effort, especially on a pitch on which your side scored 517 for the loss of a solitary wicket in their second innings.
Finn entered the first Ashes Test with eight Test appearances and 32 wickets behind him, but the six Aussie scalps he claimed at The Gabba will have done more to convince him that he belongs on this stage than any of his previous performances. That he coped with the pressure as well as he did is an extremely encouraging sign for England because never in his life will he have felt more nervous than he did when he ran up to bowl his first ball on Friday morning. Emotionally, Ashes cricket takes you to a place where you have not been before and some find it is not always a place they want to be.
Despite his excellent figures, Finn knows he can and will bowl better than he did against Australia. His figures, if we are being honest, are slightly flattering. He knows that, he is not stupid. James Anderson was the best England bowler in Brisbane and he ended up with just two wickets.
As in life, luck tends to even itself out in cricket and Finn will not always leave the field clutching a souvenir ball with a bagful of wickets against his name. There will be times when fortune deserts him and it is on these days that pundits and supporters will begin to look at other columns in his bowling figures. In Brisbane, Finn was hit for too many boundaries – 26 in just under 38 overs – which accounted for 70 per cent of the runs he conceded.
Captains want their bowlers to be consistent and accurate so they can set fields and maintain control, and in the second Test at Adelaide, which starts on Friday morning, Finn needs to bowl with far greater discipline. In all, the 21-year-old bowled just one maiden. At the Adelaide Oval, Finn needs to increase that tally considerably. If he does not, he will have too many days when he is something of a liability.
Andrew Strauss, the England captain, handled Finn sympathetically. Prior to his final spell in Australia's first innings – 10 overs that brought him four wickets for 29 runs – Strauss had bowled him for no more than five consecutive overs. The former great Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath, Finn's hero, used to bowl seven- or eight-over spells that conceded the maximum of one or two boundaries. Those are the levels of meanness that Finn should aspire.
That the final two days of the Test became something of an anticlimax will not worry England at all. There were times in the past when, no matter the quality of the pitch or opponent, England would have capitulated to an ignominious defeat after conceding a first-innings deficit of 221. But Strauss and Andy Flower, England's team director, have instilled a toughness and defiance in the team that is pleasing to see. It was memorably witnessed at Cardiff during the 2009 Ashes and on a couple of occasions on the 2009-10 tour of South Africa, and it was present again here.
There are more aesthetic sights than Alastair Cook batting for the best part of two days, but what he lacks in flair he makes up for in concentration and grit. Strauss once again set the example for others to follow with a superb hundred. And once again he watched his achievement surpassed by a teammate. He will, however, not be disappointed with that.
Despite being "under the pump", as the Aussies put it, for three days, it will be England who travel to Adelaide the happier of the teams. The first Test highlighted that small margins separate these sides. As we have already seen, momentum will swing. The challenge for each team is to make it count when they are on top and in Brisbane, Ricky Ponting's side failed to do that. Ponting knows that at some stage over the next six weeks it will be his side that are under the pump and he cannot be sure they will respond as positively as England did.
It will be interesting to see how the Australian public reacts to this result. Prior to Peter Siddle's hat-trick their support was at best apathetic. Then for a couple of days – when Siddle struck and while Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin scored hundreds – it seemed to have been revitalised. On the final day, the England supporters were playing "spot the Aussie".
In football, one of the aims of the visiting side is to silence the crowd and, following a difficult first three days, England appeared to do just that. If England can continue to keep the crowds quiet then Strauss has a wonderful chance of retaining the Ashes. If Ponting can inspire the Australian public to get behind their side the task will be made that much harder.
A memorable ashes debut
* Steven Finn's Test-best figures of 6 for 125 saw the 21-year-old become the first English bowler for 17 years to take six wickets on his Ashes debut, when Peter Such took 6 for 67 during England's defeat in a Test made famous by Shane Warne's brilliant dismissal of Mike Gatting.
His first-innings haul included four wickets from the tail after Australia had established the bulk of their lead, but also included the dismissal of Mike Hussey, leaving him five runs short of a double-century. It sparked a late order collapse.
Finn did not face a ball in England's first innings, while in Australia's second he bowled four overs with no reward, going for 25 runs. The 21-year-old has now taken 38 wickets in his nine-match Test career.
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