Finn ready for Tests
England are ready to unleash Steven Finn on New Zealand’s Test batsmen off his new, improved short run.
While the Kiwis were blown off course in windy Dunedin today by a mysterious foot injury for one of Finn’s opposite numbers, Doug Bracewell, England are intent on putting behind them a surprise warm-up defeat against New Zealand’s second string.
The tourists merely need to complete their preparations for the first of three Tests, in the hope that the return of Finn and James Anderson - both rested against a New Zealand XI in Queenstown - can help them to victory.
Finn has taken much persuading over the past three years to cut down his run, but took the plunge in back-to-back one-day international victories over New Zealand last month - and was rewarded with aggregate figures of 4-60.
The theory is that the 6ft 8in fast bowler’s new 12-stride approach will eradicate a speed wobble as he nears the stumps, and stop him knocking the bails off with his knee - a habit which has already cost him two international wickets and resulted in an imminent change in the Laws of Cricket.
From October at the latest - sooner if the International Cricket Council choose to alter their playing conditions in accordance with the MCC’s ruling - any bowler who dislodges the stumps in delivery at the non-striker’s end will be called for a no-ball rather than dead-ball.
An extra runs penalty would therefore be incurred so England are doing all they can to try to avoid the further consequences.
It is still unproven whether his shortened run will ensure that, or aid his bowling more generally, but the evidence from two matches so far is encouraging enough for Finn to try his new method for the first time in Test cricket this week.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve got the old run to go back to if I need it. But it felt good in the one-day series. I bowled with it in practice every day, and it feels good.
“We’ll see what happens in the Test matches. But my first over will be off the shorter run.”
Finn gave New Zealand’s ODI opener Hamish Rutherford - set for a Test debut at the University Oval - a torrid time in Napier and Auckland in new-ball spells off his short run.
“It is geared towards being more consistent, being able to bowl for longer spells and longer in the day and keep myself as fresh as possible,” he said. “I think it allows me to be stronger at the crease, in a better position.
“I felt like I got more bounce off the shorter run. Whether that just happened on those wickets or whether it was the shorter run that was doing it, I don’t know.
“Over a longer period of time, I’ll be able to assess that and tell. But it certainly felt as though I was more compact at the crease and more controlled. It felt good.”
Finn has been pushing his speed up into the mid-90s mph - and if the unusually strong wind persists in Dunedin this week, three-figures could even be on his radar.
The snag is that seniority dictates Anderson may yet have choice of ends, but it is hard to believe England will deploy their fastest bowler into a headwind.
“I’ll have to negotiate with Jimmy, I think, and Broady [Stuart Broad],” he said. “If I get the wind, then great.”
Either way, England are intent on continuing their good work from India before Christmas - in a historic Test series victory which is looking better by the day while Australia struggle on the sub-continent.
“That success from India is something we relish and cherish,” said Finn. “We’re really looking forward to getting stuck into this Test series. We know it’s not going to be easy by any means - we saw what fight the New Zealanders put up in the warm-up game, and in the one-day series before that.
“We know they’re a force to be reckoned with, and we’re going to have to build on our basic principles that we did very well in India - and bring them into this series.”