England is not sure if fast bowler Steve Finn will be fit for the first Test against India starting here on Thursday.

His absence at the nets at Motera on Tuesday morning just about discounted his chances of appearing in the XI.

There were reports though in the course of the four-day match against Haryana that the 23-year-old Finn would be all set take the new ball on the basis of his capacity to send down five overs in the nets.

It was his first serious work with the ball after he took a tumble while in pursuit of the ball on the first day of England’s first tour match against India ‘A’ match at the Brabourne Stadium.  

Finn (66 wickets in 16 Test matches) has played three Tests in the sub-continent — two in Bangladesh and one in Sri Lanka — and has seven wickets.

But he has been in good form, and the England team management believes that he can make the Indian batsmen quiver in their boots even on the docile Indian pitches.

From a distance, the pitch here looked dry and brown and exposed to the harsh sun right through the day. 

Matt Prior, who has provided England the much needed stability as a stumper and attacking batsman, nearly conceded that England may have to look for an alternative to Finn.

“I don’t know. I have not heard anything of Finny today. But one thing you could say is that if there was a realistic chance of his playing then he would probably have had a long bowl today,” Prior said.

“I don’t know if we will see how he comes in tomorrow as well. With an injury (thigh strain) like this, every day counts. But he’s feeling good; he’s coming along brilliantly. So I think we’ll have to just wait and see,” said Prior.

When further asked if Finn’s absence would be a setback to England’s plans, Prior said: “It would be a setback. I'm sure the coach and captain would want to be able to choose from every player that's out here.  We have a lot of strengths and depth; one thing that has made our squad strong over the last years. If Finn is not available, another guy can step in and do as good a job. That’s the way we are looking the way forward.”

Prior was reluctant to comment on the kind of pitch being prepared for the first Test.

“First and foremost my knowledge of reading wickets is very poor. So whatever I say, it would probably do the exact opposite. I look at most wickets in India as a batting paradise.

“A lot of times when I have played in India, you have looked at the wicket and said ‘oh that’s going to deteriorate, turn into a dustbowl or snake pit’, but it would play flat the whole game and then there are other wickets which stays flat for three days and then suddenly in the last two days turns slow and stays low.

“We have to keep our minds and options open to the circumstance we get over five days of a Test match.”

The Kevin Pietersen question popped up again, especially his reintegration with the team.

“We don’t want KP to change too much because that’s how he is and that makes him so special as a player. If he comes in as a shy, introvert character, I will be more worried to be very honest because I want him to go out and express himself as he does.

“I am glad he has come back as the same KP. The important thing is that this group is pulling in the same direction.”

Asked about how the Indian spinners compare with those of Pakistan’s — against whom England had struggled in the recent series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi — Prior said: “There are too many guys with different deliveries and everything else, but that does not make them less quality bowlers. We have to prepare as if we would for any spin bowler.”

Pakistan had routed England 3-0 in that series last winter.

Spinners Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez took 48 wickets between them.


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