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 famous if unexpected success in Mumbai.
He did not much care for it either, nursing mixed feelings while his team-mates beat India by 10 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 tomorrow.
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 yesterday 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,” said Finn.
“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 10 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-year-old 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.
But Finn will not allow that change of emphasis to deflect him from what he does best. “There is a little bit of pressure, because you’re being used as a strike bowler,” he added.
“But you don’t change your plans or the way that you bowl because of that.
“Just because you’re being used as a strike bowler doesn’t mean you start bowling bumpers and yorkers all the time, searching for wickets.
“You still have to have a degree of patience and use your skills wisely.”
Australia’s Ponting reflects on wonderful career
Ricky Ponting said he “cherished every moment” of his 17 years in international cricket after playing his final game for Australia yesterday.
Ponting brought the curtain down on an international career which has seen the former Australia captain win three successive World Cups, two of them as captain, and regain the Ashes from England on home soil.
Despite suffering a disappointing defeat to South Africa in Perth to end his career with a 1-0 series defeat, Ponting was able to look back on plenty of success.
His 168 Tests for Australia – a record held jointly with Steve Waugh – yielded a record 48 wins, an impressive 41 centuries and 13,378 runs for an average of 51.85.
“It’s an honour to play one Test match for Australia so I’ve been lucky to play as many as I have,” said Ponting.
“I’ve cherished every moment but it was always going to end at some stage.”
The South Africa players formed a guard of honour as Ponting stepped on to the WACA pitch for a final innings which ended with a disappointing score of eight as South African went on to win by 309 runs.
Ponting said of the tribute by his opponents: “It was unexpected, I was sort of embarrassed and wish it didn’t happen that way but it was an amazing gesture by (captain) Graeme (Smith) and the South African team.
“It’s not ended the way I would have liked but it’s been an amazing week and an amazing 20 years of first class cricket.
“There are so many highlights I guess through 168 Tests. Your debuts are always special, Ashes series are always special, any time we’ve played against South Africa in my time has been a special series.”
Ponting picked out his 156 to help Australia save the Old Trafford Test against England in a 2005 Ashes series the home side went on to win and also his 198 at the Gabba in the return series when Australia whitewashed England to regain the urn as his best innings.
He said: “Those are the moments that are as special as it gets. I wish the boys all the best in the coming Ashes series.
“Probably my proudest moment as Australia captain was taking a young group over to South Africa and winning a series over there, 2-1 and that was just on the back of us losing a series to South Africa in Australia.”