Tag: Steven Finn (page 1 of 2)

Steven Finn is setting them up for the full one

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

There’s a trend for talking about Steven Finn like he’s some sort of charity case at the minute; as if he’s only been selected for England as some sort of favour to his mum. All the other boys are being very polite and encouraging and everyone wants something to go right for him so that they can all overcelebrate and pretend that he’s every bit as good as they are.

There was an air of this when he bowled his first ball at Edgbaston today. The crowd, who had just been watching the most successful opening bowlers England have ever had, went up a notch. There was a roar of goodwill. A roar of encouragement flecked with desperation. People want Finn to do well.

That first ball was short. The second one was also short, but a bit wider. The third one was similar to the second one. The crowd’s enthusiasm waned. When it came to building some sort of symbiotic mutually-beneficial relationship with them, Finn appeared to have missed his window.

We’re writing during the lunch break, at which point Finn is still persevering with his plan of pushing the batsmen back, setting them up for the full one.  There have been six overs of setup so far.

You wonder to what extent Finn noticed the timbre of the crowd noise for that first delivery. Maybe if he bowled in a netted laboratory this afternoon, he’d find himself peppering the stumps. Sometimes it feels like he’s only bowling ineffectually because everyone’s so desperately hoping that he won’t.

We’re all rooting for you, Steven. And we apologise for that.

Steven Finn’s ‘knack’ for taking wickets

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’re going to repeat ourself a bit, but it’s okay because we’re repeating things we wrote ten years ago so nobody’ll remember.

Actually, let’s go the whole hog and stick in a block quote.

“It is often said that he has the ‘knack’ of taking wickets; that he can get people out with bad balls. This is only a whisker away from saying that he’s blessed with outrageous good luck, which is, if you consider it rationally, complete testicles. If a bowler consistently takes wickets, it’s with good reason – it’s because they’re talented.”

A decade ago, we were writing about James Anderson, who we’re sure you’ll agree has since made a compelling case to be considered an extremely good bowler rather than an unusually lucky one. We now feel the urge to say much the same thing about Steven Finn who has just returned to the England team for the umpteenth time.

Finn does not have a knack for taking wickets. He is simply a bowler who has it in him to be extremely good. He also has it in him to be pretty ordinary of course and while he might be one or the other for a whole match, a particular spell, or for just one delivery, the one thing you’ve been able to count on of late is that he’ll veer to the opposite extreme before too long.

Writing on Cricinfo, George Dobell suggests that a blessed state of thoughtlessness may go hand in hand with Finn’s best form. We wouldn’t argue with the assertion that a relaxed body is likely to result in a few extra miles per hour, but only Finn can know his mental and physical state and how they might be linked at any given moment.

You wonder whether given a position of more permanence in the England team, Finn might find himself more prone to a zen-like state of awkward 90mph lifters, but it’s impossible to offer him such a thing without seeing more signs that it would happen.

What selectors, commentators and the public shouldn’t do is diminish Finn’s case by ascribing his wicket-taking to some vague unelaborated ‘knack’ which makes it sound like it’s in some way out of his hands. Finn has specific qualities that earn him wickets and it is important to keep these in mind.

The odd wicket might be lucky, but luck cannot carry you any great distance. Finn’s overall record says more about his ability than his fortune.

Steven Finn bowls well a lot

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Way back when, there was an advert for Lancashire theme park Camelot in which they made great play of the second half of the name. We can’t remember exactly how it went, but it was something like: “Laugh a lot. Scare a lot. Fun a lot. CAMELOT!”

Fun a lot?

Anyway, Steven Finn bowls well a lot. Seemingly. Hopefully. If true, this is a crucial change from days gone by when Steven Finn bowled well ‘fairly often’ or even just ‘sometimes’.

Consistency is one of those qualities that it’s impossible to see. You can only judge it over a prolonged period. Glenn McGrath was consistent. Wasim Akram was consistent. Dale Steyn is consistent. All the best bowlers are consistent. It’s basically what separates you from the pack.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad always had it in them to bowl well, but they have become much better in recent years precisely because they have gained consistency. There have been signs that Steven Finn may have made a similar step.

In many respects, he’s the same bowler he ever was. Same pace, same bounce, maybe a touch more swing. But while the highs remain much the same, they are arriving a little more frequently; the lows less frequently; and the bit in between is a little less mediocre.

These days Camelot is a creepy, desolate place where mannequins with tonsures litter the pathways. For many years people didn’t come a lot and it was forced to close. There were good days, sure, but attendance was inconsistent. Consistency matters. Perhaps Finn noted this and concluded that if he didn’t learn from the Camelot story then people would abandon him too and a bunch of scallies might set fire to his rides.

More rehearsals before England face South Africa

A friend of ours once played the finest bum note we’ve ever heard while performing Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight at a wedding. It was the very last note and it only sounded so marvellously hideous because he’d played everything flawlessly up until that point. That’s how to get something wrong. Really build up to it. Lay the groundwork first.

South Africa have been in India, England have been in the UAE. Both sides will now do a light spot of shape-shifting ahead of what will almost certainly be a more seam-dominated series in Southafricaland.

If cricket is music – which it isn’t – this will be rather more than a key change. It’ll be more like the end of one track and the start of the next. The majority of the instruments will remain the same, but the tempo will change; there’ll be a bit more lead guitar and a little less emphasis on rhythm.

Dale Steyn has emerged from extensive groin-testing. Rumour has it he did upwards of nine star jumps. He will almost certainly be brilliant should he play and Steven Finn could also return for England. Finn being Finn that poses the perennial question as to whether he’ll do the thing that makes everyone fawn over him or simply lollop in and flop down 83mph disappointment.

The rumour is that England want to rescind first-class status for this week’s second warm-up match and make it another 13-a-side sham. What’s the first rule of training? Specificity. Try and ensure your preparation is as similar as possible to your target event. As close as you can get to a Test would be first-class cricket. The rules are one thing, but the threat to players’ batting and bowling averages also brings just the faintest whiff of the pressures they will subjected to during the grown-up stuff.

It’s easy to shrug off the odd bum note in rehearsals, but the stakes are higher when things are being recorded. It’s worth noting that we only know about the Not Quite So Wonderful Tonight aberration because it was caught on film.

Steven Finn leaps like a crested salmon

Many things happened in the third one-dayer between England and Australia. James Taylor made a hundred. Alex Hales put a fake walrus head on. Good shots were hit, good balls were bowled. There may even have been a six at one point. We don’t know. Sixes are passé. We don’t even look up from what we’re reading for them any more.

But all of these things pale into insignificance when compared to one stellar moment. In years to come, this match will be remembered for one thing and one thing alone. That thing was Steven Finn leaping like a crested salmon to catch Steve Smith.

At a conservative estimate, the ball was travelling at one billion miles per hour and was set to pass Finn by upwards of 36 metres. There was only one way in which it could be stopped. Finn closed his eyes, paused the world, summoned the spirit of Dwayne Leverock and then leapt like a crested salmon.

As he soared through the air majestically, it was immediately clear that nothing could go wrong. The timing, power and trajectory of the leap were perfect. Finn’s hand homed in on the ball and Smith was on his way. What a way for a batsman to go. It was like being stabbed in the neck by an angel.

Mitchell Johnson rocks England, Steven Finn rolls Australia

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Once again, Mitchell Johnson rocked England. He took 2-66. (Wickets taken via bouncers count double, it seems.) After that, it was back to England dismissing clueless Australian batsmen, which was really rather delightful.

This Test has brought back memories of the magical folding Australia side of a few years ago. Back then the top order were basically just lamp-posts; insignificant objects you didn’t pay any attention to which you quickly passed on your way somewhere else. Soon enough, Micky Arthur was given the boot. Darren Lehmann received plaudits for resuscitating the side, but he largely achieved this by bringing back a previous generation. It’s striking that several years later, he’s still relying on the same policy.

The thing is, now those same players are much, much older and the generation below are getting old as well. Nature abhors a vacuum, but Australian cricket is unnatural. Nothing seems to be filling the gap. Drop Michael Clarke, drop Adam Voges and bring in… Shaun Marsh?

Steven Smith has risen to the challenge and David Warner has established himself, but it feels rather like Lehmann is driving everyone towards some Clarke-less, Rogers-less precipice. It’ll be interesting to see whether he finds a way of turning the vehicle before the fatal moment, or whether he simply bails out at the last second.

Steven Finn was the main beneficiary of Australian ineptitude today. The word ‘unselectable’ has therefore been receiving a repeat airing to drive home the heart-warming nature of his resurgence. But never mind the heating of internal organs – his return is plain old admirable. He had a tough time, he couldn’t bowl for shit, he despaired, he got over it, he worked, he practised and he succeeded. He’ll probably take 0-200 in the next Test, but let’s frame our story with this as the ending and then start a new tale.

As for the batting, barring one or two exceptions and a few strange passages of silky strokeplay, it’s not been particularly excellent in this Test. Australia have made a point of being worse than England, but the home team had to make full use of their eight batsmen, which isn’t an especially good sign either. Maybe modern Test players as a whole aren’t particularly good at dealing with sideways movement – but then that isn’t really their job. Ninety per cent of the time being a Test batsman is about making as many runs as you can in fairly benign conditions. They get picked on that basis.

Australia are better than England in fairly benign conditions. We’re rather hoping they don’t get to prove that again.

Steven Finn’s back

Steven Finn's front

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

He’s also only back in the squad, not necessarily the team. Plus he hasn’t been away that long. If we’re honest, we’re only doing this joke because we know we’ll get complaints if we don’t.

But it does feel like Steven Finn’s back. He’s in ostensibly the same situation as at the end of the Ashes tour, but whereas then he was on a downward curve heading towards being considered ‘not selectable’ by Ashley Giles, it now feels like he’s on an upward curve heading towards Godfrey Evans knows where.

We’re quite happy about this because Finn does at least threaten to address the fast-mediumish qualities of the England attack. Tall and sometimes fast, he’s distinct from the others.

Liam Plunkett hasn’t had a chance to play on a non-blancmange pitch yet, but he hasn’t been as eye-wateringly quick as we’d hoped (pace isn’t everything, but it is something), while Stuart Broad really should offer something different being so tall, but somehow doesn’t. He always seems to bowl like a much smaller man.

Finn is undeniably tall and he certainly can be quick. More importantly, he seems capable of bowling those deliveries which make the batsman feel like he has no cricket bat, but additional knuckles.

Steven Finn’s probably overthinking it

Steven Finn bowling a massive wide at 72mph - probably

Steven Finn’s flying home. A couple of months aping James Anderson’s years of one-stump, solitary bowling seems to have been enough for him. Ashley Giles describes him as ‘not selectable’. It’s all gone to rat shit.

There are some activities you really shouldn’t overthink. Fast bowling’s probably one of them. You can make tweaks and hone what you’re doing, but when it reaches a point where you’re running in concentrating on doing that particular thing or not doing that particular other thing, it’s time to disengage the mind.

If you’re a professional cricketer, thinking like that swiftly translates into acute awareness that everything in your entire life hinges on whether or not you can do this particular thing. This is not the right frame of mind for doing the thing. Thing-doing needs to be automatic. It needs to be brainless.

We recommend that Finn turns to some of the traditional remedies for overthinking. He should make IPA or Cabernet Sauvignon part of his warm-up. Not too much – overdo it and you’ll suffer an entirely different brand of poor performance – but just enough to deaden the part of the brain that cares about consequences. A bit of gung-ho lairiness and far fewer inhibitions might be all he really needs to get back up and running again.

Is Steven Finn currently baking pies to chuck in the second Test?

Steven Finn unleashes a devastating long hop

We’ve mixed feelings about whether or not Steven Finn should be dropped. On the one hand, he is reassuringly distinct from England’s other bowlers, but on the other, he did a damn good impression of someone who went to pieces and became a complete liability during the first Test. It also felt significant that Alastair Cook held off using him for so long in the second innings.

One thing we’d say in favour of reliable pudding-face, Tim Bresnan, is that solid, stolid fast-medium is probably a decent enough approach against many of Australia’s more skittish batsmen. Our worry is that something more might be needed for Chris Rogers and Michael Clarke. Perhaps that’s where Jimmy comes in.

We also wouldn’t say no to a slice of Onions. He’s always the man to take wickets in county cricket and that’s a much more demanding task than bowling to Phil Hughes or Shane Watson once he’s got past 40 and turned rubbish.

Is Steven Finn a better bowler than Tim Bresnan?

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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