Lord's leader Finn adds to armoury
Steven Finn already feels closer to England recognition than ever before - now the Middlesex fast bowler is targeting a sustained year of wicket-taking to prove he can make the next step.
It is a mark of Finn’s maturity that he understands compelling performances for England Lions in the United Arab Emirates may not be sufficient in themselves to earn a place in the England team.
The 20-year-old is keen to emphasise the importance of a season leading the attack for his county.
Should he return to Middlesex for much of this season, anything approaching the efforts of 2009, which saw Finn strike 53 times in the LV= County Championship, will not do him any harm.
Even with the World Twenty20 around the corner and next winter’s Ashes series in Australia on the horizon, Finn has not lost sight of the age-old virtue of overs under the belt.
“The buzz and intensity is a confident one - this feels like an international team,” Finn told ecb.co.uk from Sharjah.
“We have guys in the squad who have international experience, and in recent years England Lions have produced lots of cricketers who have gone on to play cricket for England.
“But equally it doesn’t detract from scoring runs or taking wickets in the County Championship. We have to perform and be polished in all forms of cricket to earn the right to play for England.
“I love playing for Middlesex and at Lord’s. If you’re playing half your games at a Test match ground, then you’re playing on international-standard wickets anyway.
“I don’t think you can look too far ahead. (The Ashes) is still 12 months away. You have to perform for the Lions and in the next county season to get any chance on an Ashes tour anyway.”
Every country wishes to produce a tall fast bowler to terrorise opposition attacks. To a generation reared on summary executions by Roberts, Garner, Patterson, Ambrose and Walsh, the clamour to produce one from an English stable is perhaps inevitable.
Finn may fit handily into that bracket - 6ft 8in tall, quick and like the best of his fast-bowling peers, he clearly makes an effort to think about the game.
And having made his first-class debut aged just 16, Finn may also be slightly further down the road than other seamers of his age.
“I might have played a few more games than the average 20-year-old,” he recognised.
“I really do think that bowling lots of overs helps you groove your technique and make you know who you are as a bowler.
“The more cricket you play and the younger you do it, the more you can fall back on your experiences.”
Whether or not this makes him ready to run in with the new ball for England, Finn is courageous enough to admit that he may not know until the moment arrives.
“I think it’s difficult to say. I don’t think you know if you’re ready until you play international cricket, because it’s such a different game, I presume. All I can do is keep working hard at my game.”
Foremost on Finn’s agenda are the Lions' upcoming series against Pakistan A. The two ‘A’ sides play each other in three-match Twenty20 and 50-over series in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, starting later this week.
In between the two Pakistan assignments is the intriguing matter of a Twenty20 match-up in Abu Dhabi with the full England side captained by Paul Collingwood on February 17.
With England's selectors likely to be in attendance at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, the game will offer every Lion a chance to impress to their suitors first-hand.
That is not new territory for Finn - he was part of the Middlesex side that played England in the Stanford Super Series last winter in Antigua.
“It is strange,” he said. “But ultimately it’s just another cricket team that you’re playing against.
“Whether you’re playing against England or Pakistan, you just treat it the same. If anything you’re probably in a better position because you know more about the players.”
Plenty of English seamers down the years have been driven to distraction on unresponsive tracks in Asia.
The 1993 Calcutta Test springs immediately to mind, when England picked four of the poor devils, only for Mohammad Azharuddin to smash them to all parts.
But Finn is satisfied he can make the necessary adjustments to surfaces in the Gulf, having already toured there with his county in 2008.
He said: “I think you have to be clever. You have to use your experience and assess the situation as quick as possible - and I have played in the UAE before.
“No two wickets are the same, whether in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah. You have to just bowl the balls you think are best suited to the circumstances.”