Steve Finn is on course to be selected for England in the Third Test in Kolkata next week. With six days still to go before the match starts that does not mean the way is yet clear but the announcement today that he will travel with the squad is decidedly optimistic.
Finn, who is recovering from a thigh injury, bowled seven overs for the England Performance Programme XI today as they beat a Mumbai Academy XI by an innings and 193 runs. It was the leg spin of Scott Borthwick, of Durham, which did the final damage with 6-38 which was heartening for the long term.
But with the next few days in mind it was Finn’s spell that counted. Added to his 16 overs in the first innings which yielded four wickets it amounted, just, to the sort of workout he needed.
Had he not come through the match he would have been on a flight back to England. The tourists are perhaps keener than they are letting on – and they are letting on quite a lot – to include him in the Test side.
With the series level at 1-1 they are sure his raw pace can make a difference but with the attack likely to comprise two fast bowlers and two spinners they have to be certain of his ability to last five days.
Stuart Broad, the vice-captain whom he is likely to replace, looked short of form and fitness in the Second Test win in Mumbai and that cannot be allowed to recur. If Finn fails to confirm his fitness after an injury that has taken longer than expected to improve Broad will probably keep his place, although Graham Onions is with the party.
Ian Bell, flew into Kolkata today after returning from paternity leave in England. He flew home to be with his wife, narrowly missing the birth of their first child who arrived earlier than planned.
England have a difficult call to make with Bell’s place as well. He has been out of form for much of this year and they must decide whether to recall him in place of Jonny Bairstow who made only nine in the win in Mumbai.
Stuart Meaker, who joined the squad as cover a fortnight ago and was seriously considered for the second Test is staying in Mumbai with the performance squad.