Steven Finn stretches more than 6ft 6in into the stratosphere, is slim but wide and hurls a cricket ball down the pitch at more than 90 miles an hour.

England needs him if it is to trouble India’s middle-order — Sachin Tendulkar getting older, Yuvraj Singh recovering from a severe illness and Suresh Raina working his way into the duties of a consistent run-maker — when the Tests begin.

As we have seen more than once since he joined the Test squad, Finn’s sudden increase in pace can shock even a seasoned campaigner.

All his figures are impressive. Not just the super-fast ball but, at the age of 23, 66 wickets in 16 Tests while demonstrating the patience that Test cricket demands of any bowler, his lithe fielding and his more than workmanlike batting.

So it must be worrying that he lasted just four overs of the first warm-up match against India ‘A’ before he pulled up short chasing a ball to the boundary and was not allowed back onto the field. He has a thigh strain, a difficult injury for a large man.

Now it is announced that he will not be fit for the second warm-up match against Mumbai ‘A’, another cause for concern less than two weeks before the first Test in Ahmedabad. Only one more training match — a hard-won, much-wanted concession for England at the start of the tour — remains, and if Finn is to play in Ahmedabad he must be fit long before it starts on November 15.

Cook’s decision

As for the rest, so far, so good. Alastair Cook has made runs in his own imperturbable way and now proposes to miss the second match. Some captains thought it their duty to play in every match and I know some who would not consider a match off, but times change and only Cook, in his first major tour as captain, knows if the ball is hitting the middle of his bat by design or accident.

He is a crucial feature of this England side, on trial after last summer’s tribulations of South African defeat and Kevin Pietersen rows. I tell myself that even the best sides lose and surely Pietersen will come good in the land that is thronged with his fans.

That is why I wonder whether Cook is right to step aside from the second warm-up match. It is his task to convince these England players — certainly one of the best teams in the 65 years post-war — that they have victory within their grasp even in the sub-continent where series wins have been rare.

His project would be easier on the field, particularly if he is making runs as an opener and can say to each batsman as he arrives at the crease: “I have shown you how it is done. Please give me some of the same.”


Samit Patel also showed that he can bat better than most. I was warned from Nottingham when he first joined England that he was, for all his tubby looks and his need to bowl as well, that he is a batsman with a touch of class.

This England team is shot through with class — Cook, Trott who rarely gallops, Pietersen who, despite 20 centuries has more to offer, Bell who had the blessing of the late, great coach Bob Woolmer, Prior who needs a challenge, three quick bowlers who are underestimated at your peril, and the cheeky spinner Graeme Swann who does not need a doosra to collect wickets galore.

Together they are formidable; and the more so if Finn is fighting fit and fast.

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