Ashes 2013-14: Steve Finn closes on Test place with timely reminder of his strike-rate

England make hay in the Sydney sunshine

Sydney

Still just the one place left to fill then. It might come down to a hunch, a feeling, a calculated guess more than form or pedigree. But that is why selection is an art and not a science. It is why close scrutiny of runs and wickets will take a selector so far but not far enough.

England are probably nearer now to knowing their preferred XI for the first Test of the Ashes than they were two days ago. Perversely, they might not be as close as they thought they were a month ago, but time and form wait for no man.

By finishing with 5 for 103 in the first innings of the final warm-up match, Steve Finn at the very least made it difficult to be ignored for the third fast-bowling berth in Brisbane next week. He was smoother and more accurate on the second day than the first, which does not mean he was exactly rhythmic. There was less evidence to suggest that the ball had a mind of its own.

Nor was he put under sustained pressure for the place by his chief rival in this final warm-up match, Boyd Rankin. The Northern Irishman, who was compelling at times during the one-day series against Australia at the end of the English summer, bowled too short throughout the innings. It may be a ploy but he was too readily pursuing it.

Chris Tremlett is the third contender. His selection would depend on how much the selectors trust the five quick, incisive overs he bowled at Hobart last week as the match against Australia A petered out. Briefly, he looked like the Tremlett of three years ago who had Aussies quaking.

The case for Finn grew as he took three more wickets on Thursday, the first caught at slip, the others in the covers from shorter balls. It brought the Invitation XI’s innings to a shuddering halt, the last five wickets falling for 33 as they made 304

England then enjoyed their time in the sun on a placid pitch against unthreatening bowling to reach 302 for 5. There were runs but not hundreds for Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, and a few less for Ian Bell. James Muirhead, a 20-year-old leg-spinner from Victoria, dismissed both Bell and Pietersen, his third and fourth victims in first-class cricket. He will remember them forever.

But the third seamer’s spot was the crucial business. There might have been moments when it felt as though Finn’s pace was up, there were none when he looked the bowler he might have become by now.

Finn is an attractive Brisbane proposition for two reasons. Were England to plump for him it would mean they had started three successive Ashes series with the same four-man attack, an unprecedented sequence. Never have they come on consecutive tours of Australia and fielded in the first Test the bowlers whom they fielded on the previous tour.

There is also the inescapable matter of Finn’s ability to take wickets. He goes round the park but his strike-rate is unarguably good. His most recent Test was the first of the home Ashes last summer. He was dropped because he bowled like a drain but even then he took the first two wickets of the series.

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there