What Steve Finn wanted to reclaim his place as England’s go-to strike bowler was a clear run. He has been denied it by a niggling groin injury which will preclude his being selected for the opening one-day international against Sri Lanka.
Finn went through a regime of fancy gym exercises on the outfield at the R Premadasa Stadium today and did not look in the remotest discomfort. However, England would not dare risk him with six matches in this series still to come and a long winter ahead, culminating in the World Cup.
The team’s captain, Alastair Cook, did not rule Finn out of contention but nor did he rule him in with any conviction. Caution will prevail because there seems just a chance after a year of uncertainty that Finn can indeed return to his menacing, wicket-taking best.
He will be irked at the circumstances of this latest setback (mild as it initially seems) after having spent so many long months rebuilding his action and restoring his confidence in it. Finn had to leave England’s tour of Australia last January because his rhythm had deserted him and he regained his one-day place only in August.
When England’s second warm-up match was abandoned on Sunday, they organised a practice session in the middle at the Tamil Union ground. The run-ups were slightly sticky, making it difficult for bowlers, and it is possible that Finn tried a little too hard.
He complained of pain the next day and although there has been a manifest improvement since – hence the workout – it is not a risk worth taking. It may give an opportunity to the left-arm swing bowler Harry Gurney, who would have the chance to test his death bowling in unfamiliar circumstances.
Cook confirmed that Moeen Ali would open the batting, and although he did not name the other opener, it is reasonable to presume that it is Cook himself. England’s most sporting chance of competing with Sri Lanka is likely to come at the start of the series before the hosts have had time fully to recover from their recent 5-0 hammering in India.
The tourists have the slight dilemma of trying to win this contest while still having an eye on the World Cup in Australasia in February – coming to terms with the modern game, that is. Moeen will presumably be given at least three matches in this series to stake his claim – which may be unfortunate for Alex Hales, who was brought into the side with such high hopes late last summer.
Hales can blame the lack of bowling depth, with which Sri Lanka are also afflicted if their selection is any measure. Humbled by India, they clearly decided that something needed to be done and will go into the series with a largely untried combination.
With rain forecast, it is possible that the reserve day will be needed, though if the match starts it will be continued rather than being begun again from scratch. This should ensure a result if not necessarily make the game satisfactory.
First ODI in Colombo
Sri Lanka AD Mathews (capt), TM Dilshan, MDKJ Perera, KC Sangakkara (wk), DPMD Jayawardene, SHT Kandamby, HDRL Thirimanne, HMRKB Herath, BAW Mendis, NLT Perera, PLS Gamage.
England AN Cook (capt), MM Ali, IR Bell, JE Root, EJG Morgan, BA Stokes, JC Buttler (wk), CS Woakes, CJ Jordan, JC Tredwell, HF Gurney.
Umpires S Douglas (Aus) & R Palliyaguru (S Lanka)
Pitch report The heavy rain of recent days has left the outfield moist. Expect low and slow wicket.
Weather Sunny with chance of rain.
Television Sky Sports 2, 8.30am GMT
Odds Sri Lanka 4-7 England 11-8Reuse content