The Ashes: Finn is preparing for England role - if only as back-up

CENTRE STAGE: Steven Finn celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Brendon McCullum during their ODI win in Durham last month. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA
CENTRE STAGE: Steven Finn celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Brendon McCullum during their ODI win in Durham last month. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA
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Steven Finn has warned Australia that England have a “burning desire” to win back the Ashes.

The old enemies will lock horns again in the opening Investec Test in Cardiff on Wednesday, their first Test meeting since England were humbled 5-0 Down under 18 months ago.

The Aussies are favourites to retain the famous urn, despite not having won a series here since 2001, but England seem to have found some momentum at the right time following the recent thrilling Tests and one-dayers against New Zealand.

Fast bowler Finn said: “We are desperate to win back those Ashes. We hate the fact that we lost them in Australia, it’s something we want to put right.

“These guys have a burning desire to stand on the podium at The Oval after the last Test and lift those Ashes in front of our home crowd.

“We’ve seen how much the home crowd have got behind us this summer.

“There has been a big turnaround in peoples’ attitudes to the England cricket team and we want to make them proud.

“They’ve got the form going into it after the last series.

“But we are playing in completely different conditions and you need some different skills to win a series in England.

“We have guys who play here every summer, they come here once every four years.

“Our own conditions and our own crowds will help us.

“It doesn’t matter who’s favourite, when we walk out at Cardiff it’s 11 versus 11.”

Finn himself is unlikely to be involved in Wales with Mark Wood expected to take the third seamer’s spot behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

But his mere inclusion in the squad is a minor triumph for the 26-year-old, who has not played a Test since the summer of 2013 and was deemed ‘unselectable’ while on that doomed Ashes series later the same year.

So Finn is comfortable in his role as understudy and ready to step up to the plate when needed over the gruelling seven-week showdown.

“In my head I’m prepared to play, I’m getting ready to go out there and do battle on Wednesday,” he added.

“If I’m being realistic I am back-up to the guys who bowled so well in the New Zealand series, and I’m comfortable with that. It’s a long summer and things may happen.

“All I can do is look after my own game, make sure I am in good rhythm and keep doing everything I can so that if I do get the opportunity to play, I can do myself justice and help England win a game of cricket.”

Meanwhile, Steve Smith will go into the Ashes ranked as the world’s leading batsman, but the 26-year-old Australian knows his hard work has only just started.

Since the 2013-14 series, Smith has gone on to plunder almost 1,500 Test runs, with half-a-dozen hundreds.

The New South Wales batsman has certainly come a long way from the newcomer whose staying power at the highest level was questioned – although that still did not stop former England spinner Graham Swann firing a couple of pre-Ashes barbs his way earlier in the summer.

Smith met those head on with a century in the opening tour match against Kent at Canterbury, and Australia’s vice-captain is determined to let his consistency with the bat this summer provide all the answers.

“I don’t feel like there is any extra pressure at all,” said Smith, who was rested for Australia’s final warm-up at Essex ahead of the first Investec Ashes Test in Cardiff on July 8.

“It is just about going out there and doing the same things I have been doing, not letting any of those external things in, just watching the ball and trying to score runs. Everything else will take care of itself.”

This, of course, does not mean Smith is about to rest on his laurels.

“My game has developed a lot over the last couple of years, and that has happened through a lot of hard work,” he said. “It is just about trying to improve every day.”

Smith is not concerned by rankings either.

“I guess it’s nice to be recognised in that way at the moment, but it doesn’t bother me too much,” he said.

“For me it is just about making sure I am going out there and scoring runs, putting in Australia in positions to win matches.”

Smith believes it is the small details which have, for him, made the biggest difference.

“When I played in Ashes in 2010-11, my technique probably wasn’t up to it, I was probably playing at balls I didn’t need to be,” he recalled.

“I looked at a bit of footage, what I needed to improve.

“Since then my technique has tightened up a lot and my general mind-set around batting and batting long periods has certainly changed.

“I got rid of a tap that I used to have, just before the bowler bowled to me. I was getting myself too high, my balance was out, my stroke-play was out, everything was out of sync, so I am a lot more still at the crease now.”