Finn meets his match but hard lesson can help him in Ashes

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The Independent Online

Steven Finn's toughest assignment as a Test cricketer came between series this summer when England decided his long and slender frame needed a bit of strengthening. Toughest assignment, that is, until yesterday. It would be unfair to say that life has been a breeze for Finn in 2010. Bowling in the heat of Chittagong and Dhaka was gruelling while home matches against Bangladesh and Pakistan have put the 21-year-old under the microscope like never before. But trying to get the better of Mohammad Yousuf, now that is a different ball game.

England's newest quickie has made big strides in 2010. A first Test cap, awarded abroad, was followed by the joy of taking five wickets in an innings at Lord's when Bangladesh came visiting – and then five more at Old Trafford. And while others produced more eye-catching figures against Pakistan, Finn still played his part in those easy wins at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston.

Yesterday, though, the young giant from Middlesex was introduced to a Test batsman of tip-top quality. And although Finn finished second best in his personal duel with Yousuf the experience gained will have been worth every ounce of effort with this winter in mind.

England's belief that Finn could be a major weapon in the Ashes series was underlined when they put him through a mid-summer strength and conditioning programme, rather than let Australia get a close up look at him during a one-day series. But, injury or loss or form apart, he will be running in to bowl at Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey soon enough.

Against Yousuf, Finn learned the harsh lesson that perfectly respectable deliveries can be hit for four by a master craftsman. One delicious extra cover drive left the rookie paceman scratching his head, and scratching it again when the next ball, just outside off stump, was deliberately glided wide of second slip for four.

Learn he will, one imagines, because a willingness to benefit from experiences, good and bad, appears to be one of his many qualities. When it comes to learning quickly on an international cricket field, this England team has a terrific role model in Graeme Swann. Less than two years ago Swann had not taken a single Test wicket and now, with Yousuf in the bag, he has exactly 100 to his credit. Only India's Kapil Dev (one year, 105 days) and Australia's Mitchell Johnson (one year, 250 days) have reached the landmark quicker than Swann (one year, 251 days).

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