x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Finn a huge find for England

He's coy about his height, and with nine wickets on his Test debut he's a tall order for batsmen. Paul Radley reports.

All this talk about Steven Finn being the saviour of English fast bowling could be in danger of going to his head, but it would probably be complaining of altitude sickness well before it got there. The official tale of the tape has Finn standing at 6ft 7ins, making the lean pace merchant the tallest to have played Test cricket for England. If he gave his measurements a little more honestly, he would be on a par with the two players reputed to be the tallest in the history of the international game, Joel "Big Bird" Garner, the West Indian, and Bruce Reid, of Australia.

Finn tries to hide the fact that he actually stands 6ft 8ins, on account of it making him seem like "a bit of a freak". When he and Stuart Broad, the all-rounder, who is no Tom Thumb himself, shared the same corner of the dressing-room, their teammates nicknamed them the "Avatars". If Finn is uneasy about standing out, he is just going to have to live with it. Judging by the way he has started his Test career, he is set to be spending much of the near future in the limelight.

By the time he next appears at Lord's, where his county, Middlesex, are tenants, the paint will have dried on the inscription bearing his name on the honours board in the home-team dressing-room. And his five-wicket haul in the second innings against Bangladesh is unlikely to be his last at this level. He is still only 21, but Finn has always been a young achiever, and he was marked out long ago as having an international future.

He was first called in to a national team, the England Under 16s, at the age of 14. He was playing junior cricket with Hertfordshire, a minor county, at the time, and his switch to Middlesex, the better-funded, better-equipped, major county led to a brief falling-out between the neighbouring bodies. Toby Radford, the academy coach who took Finn to Middlesex and later oversaw his development as the county's head coach, said at the time: "He has a good chance of playing for England." He was not the only one of that opinion.

At 16, Finn became the youngest debutant in the senior Middlesex side since Fred Titmus, the great all-rounder, made his bow 56 years earlier. When he did get leave from his professional side to play weekend club cricket, Finn turned out for a variety of sides in his home town of Watford, where his father, Terry, had been a league seam-bowler of repute. The league is hardly a renowned nursery for talent, but also counts Monty Panesar, the England left-arm spinner, among its recent products.

The club Finn played for as a colt, Watford Town, also has Mark Ilott, a left-arm seamer who played Test cricket for England, among its alumni. Finn has not taken long to turn heads at the very highest level. He has a bowling action that is "as close to perfect as is possible," as Michael Holding, the West Indian who possessed a famously smooth action of his own as a leading fast bowler of the past, said on commentary.

Even though Finn took nine wickets in the match, the Bangladesh batsmen did at least battle to prove they were capable of countering his pace and bounce in the second innings. While the touring side did much to prove that the disparity between themselves and England is shrinking, the same cannot be said of the considerable gap between their own batting resources and their bowlers. The manner the tourists fought to set England a target in this game was a boon for all those who believe they deserve their place among the Test elite.

However, their bowling was as meek as their batting was plucky, and Andrew Strauss (82) barely had to break sweat as he guided England to an eight-wicket victory just before tea yesterday. pradley@thenational.ae