THE RETURN OF FINN

He was the youngest man to take 50 test wickets for England. He made his debut as a 16-year-old fast bowler in first class cricket, and had a natural talent that was difficult to ignore. He was tall, strong and hurled down balls with occasional hints of swing. 

Steven Finn was the next big thing in English cricket. He remained the next big thing, for quite a long time. 
 
Because, as with many future superstars, Finn had to endure failure to achieve success. He had to know that he was human, so that he could come back stronger, so that he could go from amateur to pro, through a trial by fire. It’s not always smooth sailing for naturally gifted athletes. The scriptwriters of their lives almost always put in a phase of conflict – sometimes against the run of play, against logic and life – to make them more mortal, and more entertaining to watch. Every life must have its hardships, and every career must have its tests – what’s the point of watching a great becoming great and actually fulfilling potential, without any hitches? There’s a godliness to that, which isn’t very good to watch. The trick is to become an underdog at some point. And Steven Finn became far less than an underdog over the past two years. He became the first-change bowler for Middlesex a year ago, and must have felt like a lost talent in search of a mentor – like in movies, where there’s always an inspirational coach around the corner. Here, it was bowling coach Richard Johnson, who, in a way, filled that slot. But it was a long and frustrating journey back. 
 
 
And then came his fairytale Ball: The Ashes 2015. Exactly two years after he was dropped from the English team because of a sudden breakdown in action, pace and rhythm, he was brought in for Mark Wood at Edgbaston. He was back, action rebuilt and pace intact, but nobody had watched him in international test action for a while. 
 
His time away from tests proved to be a boon. In the first innings, with Anderson and Broad keeping up the pressure, it was Finn who made the crucial breakthroughs. He got the number 1 batsman in test cricket, Steven Smith, before castling captain Clarke with a full, out-swinging almost-yorker. This was the Finn everybody wanted back – a confident young man with immense ability, and less importantly, a remodeled action that didn’t let his legs hit the stumps in his run-up. 
 
 
The third test is almost over in its third day, and that’s largely down to Finn and his relentless pace. Anderson, after a first innings burst, has strained his side and could be ruled out of the Ashes. More responsibility will be heaped upon Finn, which could also be a truer test, now that he becomes a strike bowler. He already has 5 wickets in the second innings, and with Australia 7 down, he has a chance to get more. 
It won’t matter though. A miracle aside, England are expected to win this without any trouble. They will be 2-1 up in the Ashes, but more importantly, they will have humiliated the Aussies in less than 2.5 days. While most Ashes series don’t ride on momentum, this is a telling blow. 
 
Finn will be savouring his comeback. But he also knows that things can go downhill with a single ball. Ask Steve Harmison – the way he started the 2007 Ashes Down Under with that ominous ball, set the tone for the rest of the series. With two tests to go after this one, Finn has been the fastest bowler on show so far. That’s right – faster than Johnson and Starc, and faster than Broad. 
 
Finn is no more an underdog. It will be interesting to watch how he handles being, once again, the top dog. 

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