STEVEN FINN is eager for a piece of the action again as England continue their quest to win a Test series in India for the first time in almost 28 years.
Finn experienced what it was like to be on the outside looking in at a winning team when, in his absence as he continued his recovery from a thigh strain, England pulled off a famously unexpected success in Mumbai.
He did not much care for it either, nursing mixed feelings while his team-mates beat India by ten wickets to level the four-match series at 1-1–- and he could only watch on television.
Words of encouragement immediately followed, however, from bowling coach David Saker – who believes Finn may have the ‘‘x-factor’’ England need to help them make history here in the final two Tests, starting at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
The fast bowler duly demonstrated his well-being for the Performance Programme, an hour’s drive away from England’s hotel on the other side of Mumbai last week, taking four wickets in a wide-margin win over the DY Patil Academy.
Finn was back in the nets this morning too, and afterwards confirmed he will be ready if England decide – as seems increasingly likely – to pick him, instead of off-colour vice-captain Stuart Broad, as one of just two frontline seamers in the third Test.
He admits, for a time, he even feared his tour might be over prematurely after suffering a setback in his recovery between the first and second Tests – but now Finn is raring to go for what would be his 17th cap.
‘‘It was difficult knowing that the lads were there in Mumbai, celebrating a win and being together, and I was on the other side (of the city) watching it on the TV,’’ he said.
‘‘It was a strange feeling and something I didn’t enjoy missing out on, so I’m definitely keen to get in on the act if that happens this time.’’ Saker’s praise has done no harm either, with Finn adding: ‘‘It’s definitely encouraging for your bowling coach to be saying that about you.
‘‘I know that when I’ve bowled on the trip so far I have bowled well.
‘‘I’ve been in good rhythm; I had a good run-out in the EPP game the other day; I feel good.’’ He could not have said the same two weeks ago, after failing to prove his fitness in time for the first Test and then having a second scan on his injured right leg – which suggested a more serious strain than had initially been detected.
‘‘I suppose there were a few doubts in my mind, especially after I pulled up before the second Test in pain,’’ Finn said.
‘‘I was frustrated with myself, with my leg obviously.
‘‘There was a time that it crossed my mind that I might be leaving early.
‘‘Thankfully we’ve got very good medical staff, and I had a little bit of time off – four or five days where I did absolutely nothing – and I haven’t really felt it since.’’ Finn managed just four overs in England’s first tour match, against India A back in October, before pulling up in pain as he retrieved a ball in the outfield.
‘‘It was bitterly disappointing,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve never had that feeling of something popping before.
That’s what it felt like.
‘‘It was alien to me.
‘‘It was scary and very frustrating at the time, knowing I had a good chance of playing in that first Test match.
‘‘Initially, we were working towards the second Test – but it took another ten days or so more than we expected.
‘‘The second scan showed a little bit more than the first scan.’’ Back to full health, his only concerns now are how to measure up to Saker’s expectations – on a pitch once again likely to favour spin and offer precious little bounce for the seamers.
It is a challenge the 23-yearold is happy to accept, though, at a venue where he bowled so well in both limited-overs formats just over a year ago.
He will be one of two, rather than the conventional three, pace bowlers in a four-man attack completed by Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann - the finger spinners responsible for 19 of the 20 Indian wickets at the Wankhede Stadium.