I’m getting back to my best – Finn

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Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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It went unseen by team-mates and coaches and unmeasured by any of the travelling technology that accompanies cricketers around the world, but England’s World Cup prospects rocketed the moment Steven Finn felt a familiar sensation in his fingertips.

It was in Sri Lanka in November, where England were fine-tuning their final squad for the forthcoming tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

Two years ago, Finn would have been inked into the first XI – a physically imposing paceman ready to have the world’s best ducking and dancing to his tune.

A year ago, his entire international future was up in the air – the most miserable member of a miserable Ashes squad that brought the ‘down’ into Down Under.

Now? Finn may not quite be back to the peak of his powers, but the wickets are tumbling for him again and the speed-gun is ticking in the right direction.

And it all comes down to that unquantifiable feeling of ball in hand.

He lost it in Australia last winter – along with his run-up, his confidence and, according to then coach Ashley Giles, his selectability.

But he found it again in Sri Lanka.

“Wickets always help, but the biggest gain in confidence is the feeling you get at the end of your fingertips,” he said, reflecting on his return to form during the recent Tri-Series against India and Australia.

“You can have a day when you get no wickets but you still feel good, and in the Sri Lanka tour before Christmas that feeling was there on my fingertips and I knew I was happy with how I was bowling.

“I think I’m getting there, back to my best, but there might be another couple of miles per hour to come in the tank.

“I think that will come with confidence and getting into my stride, but it’s a good starting block and I’m happy with where I’m at.”

While Finn’s renaissance in England colours may have begun in the practice nets of Colombo, Pallekelle and Hambantota, it was not immediately apparent in results.

He was selected for five of the seven matches, slipping behind Chris Woakes in the process, and did not bowl his full allocation in any of them. Twice he was handed just six overs and there was uncertainty over his role in the side.

But England saw enough to include him in their World Cup 15 and the subsequent Tri-Series was a restorative moment for the Middlesex man.

He was in a head-to-head battle with Chris Jordan to face India at the Gabba when the latter was struck down with illness.

Finn played, found a springy track to his liking and returned career-best figures of five for 33 to roll the Indians over for a meek 153.

In the next three matches Finn took a central role, getting through his full 10 overs on each occasion – fully trusted by his county colleague and new national skipper Eoin Morgan.

He finished as the second highest wicket-taker of the series behind Australis’s Mitchell Starc, with 11 scalps at 21.36.

His economy rate – a shade over five – was comfortably bettered by England’s king of swing James Anderson (whose overs cost just 3.62 apiece), but more important was his strike-rate across five matches – one wicket every 25 balls.

Finn has never won games for England by constricting opponents and drying up runs. He is a wicket-taker, a bowler who draws the batsmen into an open game and picks him off once he opens his shoulders.

It is a valuable commodity, particularly in the middle overs when fielding sides can become insular, and Finn has it back.

Having meticulously deconstructed his method to no avail last winter, Finn revealed he was given new advice by Andrew Flintoff when the former England all-rounder attended nets in Brisbane.

“We just chatted about keeping bowling as simple as you can, just going up and trying to bowl quick. That served him well throughout his career and it’s a great piece of advice for any young fast bowler,” Finn said.

It is a clear plan for someone who has at times appeared to overthink his game, and, if the fingertips are willing, it could reap big rewards for England.

Published: Friday 6th February 2015 by The News Editor

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