Is Steven Finn a better bowler than Tim Bresnan?

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Steven Finn - a fast bowler until the international treadmill wears him down to a nub

Most of you will answer ‘yes’. Finn’s performance in the third Test is fresh in the mind and it’s hard to argue that his best isn’t a notch above Bresnan’s best, but that’s not the whole story. We’re pretty good at squash, but that doesn’t mean we don’t accidentally twat ourself on the knee with the racket every once in a while.

Like us, bowlers have highs and lows. Some deliver their best about one match in 20 and it’s hard to evaluate players like that because the eye-catching performances are those which influence our perceptions the most. Finn isn’t quite a Mitchell Johnson or a Steve Harmison, but the same principle applies: the bad days count too.

The bad days

Let’s assume we’re happy with Finn’s best. Can England accommodate his worst? Every bowler has off days, but Bresnan is able to exercise damage limitation in a way in which Finn can’t. England can work with this and even Bresnan’s off days help contribute to their philosophy of bowling dry.

We’re not a massive fan of that approach, but that isn’t to say it’s wrong. Our main reservations are that it’s kind of dull to watch and that England are too slavish in their devotion to it. However, against some batting sides it’s very effective. A Finn bad day rather undermines it though.

The collective bad days

On balance, we’d still go for Finn over Bresnan when picking a Test team. England may or may not be able to bowl dry with Finn in the side, but without him there are things they definitely can’t do. Leave out a tall fast bowler in favour of reliable fast-medium and you reduce your options to the point where you might be committed to a bowling approach that simply isn’t working.

There’s also the fact that Finn appears to be improving. It’s not so much that he’s become more accurate every time he bowls. It’s more like his good days are coming more frequently. Maybe they’ll blur together in the future giving the title of this article a more straightforward answer.


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    1. Bresnan has taken plenty of wickets. The fact that people tend to be slightly surprised everytime he doesn’t mean that, until recently at least, people were surprised fairly often.

  1. The fact that it’s so debatable when you consider bowling alone is what makes Bresnan the better cricketer, at least for now.

    1. In bowling terms Finn is clearly a better bowler, Bresnan is a little more consistent but his best is clearly nowhere near Finns. If you take the ‘look at what else they offer’ viewpoint to it’s conclusion you will end up trading off place by place until you have a team of ‘allrounders’ that aren’t the best bowlers and are at best lower order rather than tail end batsmen.
      Look at what has happened to the role of ‘wicket keeper’ in the last 20 years. It’s now considered acceptable to have a pan handed bufoon behind the stumps as long as he averages more than 40 with the bat.
      Contrast with say Graham Manou (first wicket):
      This is in wet greasy conditions after the man had been out for first class cricket for over a year. In that same match he stopped several of Shaun Tait’s legside ‘specials’ that would otherwise have been 5 wides.
      My point is that in selecting players on secondary abilities (lets be honest most of the time this is all about BATTING) you weaken your team in the field, and end up spending a test match unable to take more than 2 wickets.

    1. There’s a rich point in here, Bert…

      …apologies if that sounds surprised…

      …the trade off is perhaps more between Bresnan and Broad – can a four man bowling attack justify playing both of those two at the moment? On low slow pitches in India, perhaps yes. In Kiwi-land, I suspect we’ll want/need the extra pace and bounce of Finn.

      Good decision to rest Broad for the ODIs – in line with Bert’s thinking.

      Bert – man of influence!!

  2. As Ged suggests, they can perhaps work on a rotation basis. Horses for courses. Fish in the sea. Cats amongst the pigeons. Cow’s arse with a banjo. Etc and so on.

    What was the question?

    1. Tomorrow never dies…

      …whereas a SWALEC Stadium wicket unquestionably dies after about 60 overs have been bowled on it…

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