If Pakistan presumed they were back in the Test series, England's youngest bowler begged to differ yesterday. Ignoring the third Test defeat, or perhaps using the evidence of the tourists' shaky second innings, Steve Finn said: "We have bowled them out for 72 and 80 in this series so obviously there is a batting collapse waiting to happen."
This was a fairly provocative statement since there were times at The Oval, and Edgbaston before it, when Pakistan looked at last as if they were coming to terms with the longer game on sporting pitches, both of which had been alien to many of them.
The pitch at Lord's for the fourth and final Test starting tomorrow is unlikely to grant the bowlers as many favours. It was as if Finn, for a moment at least, was taking a leaf from the book of one of his heroes, the Australian fast bowler, Glenn McGrath, who regularly made it his business to get up opposition pipes with a choice goading word or two. Nor was Finn disconcerted by Shane Watson, the Australian opening batsman who had entered the Ashes phony war, an antebellum so long and distinctive that it will soon have period houses named after it. Watson had said the Aussies would target Finn's inexperience, adding: "It is so foreign, he doesn't know what to expect."
To which Finn replied he was not at all concerned. He could only bowl at what was in front of him. But he had clearly thought about Pakistan both before and after the advent of the experienced Mohammad Yousuf to shore up their middle order. Although Yousuf at times looked masterful last week in scoring 56 and 32, Finn refused to pay unqualified homage.
"There have been two innings now, the second innings of the second Test match and the first of this where they have played well and they are allowed to put partnerships together," he said. "But never at any stage have they got away from us. Their top score is just over 300 and we're not at all disappointed by that. We feel as if we're doing the right things as bowlers and I don't think them having Mohammad Yousuf in the team makes them a totally different team at all."
So there, MoYo. Finn is a confident, though not cocky, young man and it was intriguing to hear his assessment after the first Test he had played in where England did not have it all their own way, the first indeed when he had appeared on a losing side.
There were moments when Yousuf and Azhar Ali were in tandem on the second afternoon at The Oval that it seemed Finn, for the first time, was being confronted by authentic Test batsmen. Yousuf's class rubbed off on the well-ordered Azhar and in some ways it was as if Finn, in his seventh Test, was being introduced to the longer game as it was meant to be played.
As it happened, he had his least effective game of the summer (1-74 and 0-18) and though he was reluctant to offer too much credit to the batsmen he was perfectly willing to address his own shortcomings. There is no bluster about Finn, even at 21, but he knows his worth.
"There were areas where I didn't bowl as well as I could have done and that could have contributed to us losing," he said. "That is something I am very aware of. In the grand scheme of things, having lost that Test match, you learn a lot from that.
"As far as what Shane Watson has said I'm not concerning myself at all about it. If he wants to talk about me I'm not fazed by it, I don't care who's put in front of me, I'm just going to try and concentrate on the very immediate future which is this game against Pakistan. I think I have got what it takes to bowl under pressure, I have got a repeatable action and I know what I'm doing with the ball and where to bowl it."
Finn made a debut for England that was sensational by modern standards of continuity. Flown to Bangladesh as a replacement for Graham Onions following good displays in the Performance Squad earlier in the winter, he found himself unexpectedly pitched into the Test side.
Thus encouraged, he had a rampant start to the season for Middlesex and the selectors retained him in the team. On merit certainly, but there was no doubt that his selection throughout this summer has been made with the Ashes tour this winter firmly in view, though he has yet to set foot in Australia. Finn is 6ft 8ins, a hit-the-deck bowler, who achieves disconcerting bounce (as well as speed), which may be vital if the Ashes are to be retained.
He took nine wickets in his first home Test, against Bangladesh at Lord's, and another six in his second. He has been quieter since as swing has come into its own but he has still quickly become a complementary member of a four-man bowling attack. If he looks the part and has taken 28 wickets at 24 to back it up, albeit against weak and weakened opponents, Finn is not afraid to examine his own performance. He recognises it was probably not good enough last week.
"I leaked too many four balls, I bowled five decent balls and then one four ball, which was very frustrating," he said. "It was something I didn't mean to do and during that middle period when Yousuf and Azhar Ali were batting we could have done with me drying it up a bit more. But that's cricket, you learn every time you step on to the field."
Finn could be at the start of something special and Pakistan at Lord's this week is exactly what he (and England) need. It will be no cakewalk, but then neither will Australia.
Pakistan prepared for the Test by not showing up to Lord's for their allocated practice. They did, however, name a squad of 16 for the forthcoming, if not much-awaited, one-day series against England next month. Shahid Afridi has been retained as captain despite resigning the Test captaincy last month after one match. Yousuf has also been recalled.
Pakistan squad for one-day series v England (5-22 September): Shahid Afridi (Capt), Salman Butt, Shahzaib Hasan, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Yousuf, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Akhtar, Saeed Ajmal.
England's best weapon?
Steve Finn: Age: 21
The towering 6ft 8ins fast bowler made his England test debut on 2 March in the victory against Bangladesh.
28 Wickets in seven Tests for England at 24.35. The promising bowler has already recorded two five-fors, both against Bangladesh in March and May.Reuse content