Steven Finn unlikely to be fit for first Test against India

 

Steven Finn, England’s fastest bowler, is unlikely to play in the opening Test of the series against India.

Although there was no official statement about his absence, Finn cut a forlorn figure today at the squad’s practice session at the Motara ground.

He turned up ready for a net to check if the thigh injury he sustained in the first warm-up match against India A had recovered sufficiently to make him available for selection. Instead, he was advised not to bowl and sat on an ice box with a faraway look in his eyes as his team-mates went through fielding drills.

Finn, who has developed into one of the two or three most rapid bowlers in the world since first playing for Middlesex as a 16-year-old, should not take it personally. England appear to have recognised that his raw pace could yet help to determine the outcome of this series and have decided not to risk aggravating the injury.

Unless they win the First Test, which starts here on Thursday, by a country mile, he is probably already pencilled in for the Second, which begins in Mumbai next Friday. Although spin is bound to play a part on Indian pitches, and England will be praying that they can extract some reverse swing, there is no substitute for sheer pace anywhere and Finn is regularly well above 90mph these days.

The prospects for England’s other injured paceman, Stuart Broad, appear to have improved. He bowled two spells in the nets, often at full pace, had a bat and looked at ease after his heel injury. But he will have to bowl again tomorrow to be in the reckoning.

The loss of Finn is a blow but Matt Prior is confident England have the resources to cover his absence.

The wicketkeeper said: “It’s a setback. I’m sure coach and captain would want to be able to choose from every player that’s out here.

“But we have a lot of strength and depth in the squad. It’s one thing that’s made our squad so strong over the last couple of years. If Finny’s not available, there’s another guy who can step in and do as good a job — that’s the way we look at it.”

Tim Bresnan is the obvious candidate to complete England’s pace attack, alongside Broad and James Anderson.

It was England’s first opportunity to see the playing surface at the main ground today. The outfield is a lush green, which may halt at birth the aspiration for reverse swing. The pitch itself is bare of grass, bone dry and probably rock hard.

It would be something of a miracle if it did not take spin fairly early although Prior, who should know a thing or two about the behaviour of pitches having stood so close to them for 10 years, was making no outrageous claims.

“First and foremost my reading of wickets is pretty poor so whatever I say it’ll probably do the exact opposite,” he said. “I look at most surfaces in India and think, ‘Wow, that looks like a batter’s paradise,’ and this one doesn’t look much different.

“A lot of the time in India you look at a wicket and think it’s going to deteriorate and it stays flat the whole game. Others look flat and then suddenly it turns and goes very low.”

England left home knowing exactly what they could expect and Prior sounded as though he was relishing what lies ahead. He said: “Cricket is a religion here and to play in front of people who have that sort of mentality is a fantastic opportunity.”

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