Finn just the ticket as England cruise
Beanpole bowler seizes the moment with a striking display as Anderson also saves his best for a rainy day
Sunday 30 May 2010
It is too early to be sure, of course. More accomplished opponents await, as do longer days in tougher conditions. Premature judgements of glory, issued in sport like tickets on a bus, bring careers juddering to a halt.
Bearing that in mind, the 21-year-old beanpole loping in from the Pavilion End yesterday looked every inch, all 80 of them, the sort of fast bowler for whom England and every other team in world cricket are on perpetual look-out. Steve Finn, playing in his first Test match at home, was fast, accurate and achieved the sort of unnerving, steepling bounce which has batsmen checking their medical insurance, if only they can stop breaking out into a cold sweat for long enough.
He was on at the belated start to the third day of the First Test between England and Bangladesh, took the second new ball and was never less than probing. He asked more questions than a market researcher, and the answers were equally unforthcoming.
If it was an unsatisfactory day because it was so curtailed, there was still sufficient time for England to redeem themselves after their moderate endeavours on the second day. Doubtless encouraged by the cloud cover which pervaded in humid conditions after the morning rain, they took a firm grip on the match which will not now be loosened.
Although only 28.5 overs were possible it may be still recalled down the years as the moment when England and Finn found each other. He took three of the five wickets to fall – caught behind, leg before and bowled, a perfect combo – while 65 runs were added, leaving Bangladesh on 237 for 7, a deficit of 268. The others went to Jimmy Anderson, who should not have been surprised to note that the more he pitched the ball up the more it moved late and disconcertingly. Lesson one at swing bowling school should not be easily overlooked.
Finn is a striking individual, at 6ft 7in the joint tallest player to have represented England along with David Larter and Chris Tremlett (some manuals assess Tony Greig as being as tall, and he was bigger than that in other senses). The difference is that Finn is still growing and is reluctant to own up to the 6ft 8in he has already probably reached because he thinks it would propel him into the freak category.
He should not worry. It is his height that enables him to deploy what will be his most significant weapon, the bounce it will help him to generate from a decent length. In the past few months he has progressed with alacrity.
His best season for Middlesex was followed by a winter with the England Lions and then in a dizzying week a call-up to the full squad as cover in Bangladesh, followed by his Test debut in Chittagong. He handled himself with distinction in conditions he can never have seen before and must have hoped did not exist.
Realising what they might have on their hands, England picked him for this opening Test after his excellent start to the county summer. It was still mildly surprising when the captain, Andrew Strauss, brought him on at the Pavilion End ahead of Anderson. But it worked. Finn's seventh ball of the day moved across the obdurate Junaid Siddique and its extra lift might have persuaded him to play and then withdraw his bat. Too late. The ball grazed the face and gave Matt Prior a regulation catch.
Finn was more fortunate to dismiss Mohammad Ashraful, but if the ball might have been snaking narrowly over the top, invalidating the lbw decision, it also moved rapidly down the Lord's slope. It was an excellent spell. This seemed to suggest to Anderson, putatively the leader of England's attack, that it was time to extract his digit.
At times thereafter he bowled beautifully, hitting a good length on off stump and moving the ball away late. He ended Jahurul Islam's self- denying vigil with something along those lines, and when he at last moved from the Nursery End to the Pavilion End he persuaded Bangladesh's estimable captain, Shakib Al Hasan, to have a mild but lethal flirtation with a ball outside off stump. For one moment it looked as though the catch might be spilled as it clattered out of Prior's gloves, but Strauss was on hand to retrieve the situation.
The first spot of bad light descended shortly after a late tea but when the players came back Finn was handed first use of the new ball. His opening ball was on the button but no more than a loosener, his second was impeccable, jagging back from off stump, spearing through Mushfiqur Rahim's defences and rattling into middle stump.
Mushfiqur is a dogged batsman and an authentic Test No 7; the ball might have done for better batsmen.
Bad light came in again an over later and that was it for the day. England have been kept waiting longer than they were five years ago on the ground where they had finished the matter by the afternoon of the third day. If they bowl as well as they should today they will not expect to have to return tomorrow. Finn is a wicket away from having his name on the most famous honours board in the world at the first time of asking. The manner in which he went about his business last night suggested it might not be his last.
Bangladesh won toss
England – First innings 505 (I J L Trott 226, A J Strauss 83; Shahadat Hossain 5-98)
Bangladesh – First innings (Overnight: 172-2 (Tamim Iqbal 55)
Junaid Siddique c Prior b Finn (113 balls, 9 fours) 58
Jahurul Islam c Prior b Anderson (81 balls, 2 fours) 20
†Mohammad Ashraful lbw b Finn (7 balls, 1 four) 4
*Shakib Al Hasan c Strauss b Anderson (48 balls, 3 fours) 25
†Mushfiqur Rahim b Finn (59 balls, 2 fours) 16
Mahmudullah not out (16 balls, 1 four) 7
Shahadat Hossain not out (7 balls) 3
Extras (lb2, w3, nb1) 6
Total (7 wkts, 81.5 overs) 237
Fall (cont): 3-179, 4-185, 5-191, 6-221, 7-234.
To bat: Robiul Islam, Rubel Hossain.
Bowling: J M Anderson 25.5-5-61-2, T T Bresnan 23-5-73-0, S T Finn 20-5-75-4, G P Swann 11-6-19-0, I J L Trott 2-0-7-0.
Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and E A R de Silva (SL).
TV replay umpire: R K Illingworth.
Match referee: A G Hurst (Aus).
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