One to Watch at the World Cup: No.6 – Steven Finn

After yesterday’s brief flirtation with the world of the CPL, today sees the return of my countdown to the World Cup, and my latest player to watch.

Steven Finn is the one England player to feature on my list. In truth, I could have put 2 or 3 on here, but whether that’s due to a genuinely exciting England side or my own partisanship is up for debate. For now, let’s focus on one of the most exciting bowlers in the world.

The Middlesex seam bowler has endured what can only be described a roller-coaster year. When he broke down in Australia last winter it appeared that his career had hit its lowest ebb. Not only was he bowling badly, he was deemed to be so low on confidence and form that he was brandished ‘unselectable’ and set back to the UK for remedial work.

By all accounts, Finn suffered something bordering on the yips during his torrid tour down under. However, it may have been a blessing in disguise. While his England teammates trudged around Australia finding new ways to slide to embarrassing defeats, he was back in England starting the long road back to international cricket.

His road back to the England side started slowly, picking up 4 wickets in 3 appearances for Middlesex in the Royal London One-Day Cup. However, after months of hard work rebuilding his action and restoring his confidence he was eventually deemed ‘selectable’ once again by England. He pulled back on the England jersey for the final 3 ODI’s against India at the back end of the summer.

Although Finn only managed to claim 3 wickets in his 3 games, it was his pace and the apparent ease of his action that most impressed. When Finn was at his worse, his action looked clunky, awkward and stuttering, but upon his return he appeared to have returned to the form that saw him touted as one of the brightest talents in the world game.

After those 3 performances Peter Moores and then captain Alastair Cook obviously backed Finn to be their strike bowler once again, as he played 5 of the 7 matches on the Sri Lankan ODI tour. But yet again Finn struggled to get the wicket return he wanted and deserved, averaging just a wicket per match.

But England persevered with their man, and under new captain Eoin Morgan, Finn has been given a crucial role as part of England’s seam bowling quartet. England were rewarded for their loyalty during the recent tri-series, as Finn burst back onto the scene with 11 wickets in 5 matches. Finn was back, and bowling with frightening pace and a renewed accuracy and control.

With the World Cup being played in Australasian conditions, Finn is a good bet to be amongst the highest tournament wicket-takers. He clearly enjoys the conditions down under; he not only has his tri-series success to fall back on, but also his 14-wicket haul in the 2010/11 Ashes series.

Finn’s natural pace and height make him the ideal bowler on the harder decks in Australia. His customary length is a tad short of a good length, on quick pitches he can beat most players for pure pace and bounce. The only worry for him is that he may get overexcited with the pace and carry, and drop his length even shorter. For Finn, the short ball has to the surprise ball not the norm. Due to his height and upright action he can afford to bowl fuller than he may think, with batsman often reluctant to come forward even when the ball is well pitched up.

Much has been made of England’s inability to make huge totals and their perceived lack of firepower with the bat. Less has been said about the bowling attack, but in my opinion, it is with England’s seam quartet that their World Cup hopes rest. The new ball pairing of Chris Woakes and James Anderson looked increasingly impressive during the tri-series and even Stuart Broad looked to be back towards his best form.

Finn’s role within the quartet is to be a wicket taker, simple as that. England will not be fretting if he concedes a run-a-ball, as long as he is taking regular wickets. Experienced campaigners Broad and Anderson should, if they can find their best form, naturally keep the scoring rate in check at the other end. England would do best to allow Finn to bowl aggressive lines to aggressive fields, and to bowl for wickets.

It’s been a remarkable year for Steven Finn; one that has seen him rescale the mountain of international cricket. If he can continue his improvement with the ball, he could just be blasting through a few batting line-ups and leading England well into the knockout phases.

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