Forgotten Ashes: Steven Finn 6-79
Ashes cricket is the culmination or obituary of a player's career. Alex Stewart and Marcus Trescothick are two of the finest openers that have ever played for England but both retired with fairly middling- if not widely disappointing, Ashes records with only 1 hundred between them (courtesy of ‘the gaffa’) and neither averaged above 35 against ‘the old enemy’. Subsequently both careers are remembered fondly by those who saw them play and their legacies, sadly, won't be passed onto future generations in the (quite often bombastic) stories of the likes of Flintoff and Pietersen. Moments that contribute towards the Urn are instantly a part of the historic cannon which we discuss every 2 years at length; or so one would think. Regardless of the Ashes fever which we all fall ill with every time the series nears there are plenty of spells, innings and catches which are but a distant memory, rarely featuring in the conversations surrounding the modern history of the games greatest rivalry. Even when reminded of them most simply give an obligatory ‘oh yes why well done to them’ shrug their shoulders and go back to watching Ben Stokes 135*. The aim of this series- which shall run unti the first test on December the 8th, is to remind you of some of the more recent Ashes performances which for some reason or another have slipped under the radar and hopefully let us appreciate those spells, innings, moments and matches that, for one reason or another, have been cast aside.
Stevn Finn: 21-3-79-6
Steven Finn is one of the most complex bowlers to grace the English game. Devon Malcolm pushes him close but there really has been nothing quite like Finn. Any other era and Finn would have been the focal point, the attack leader, the one who everyone turns to in a moment of need. Sadly in the age where England were a bulldozer demlosihing their way to number 1 in the world, through pure cricketing ruthlessness in batting and bowling, a bowler who is as susceptible to the ebbs and flows of form as Finn was not to play a part in the side. 2010/11 is the most famous example, leading wicket taker in the series but going at 4 an over in his last game, Finn was replaced by the slightly less exciting but far more metronomic Tim Bresnan and before long he was deemed ‘unselectable’; 2013 was the end of Steven Finn's England career. Then the improbable happened. Finn toiled and toiled and England soon just had to pick him and at Edgbaston it paid off as Finn ran through the Aussies.
England had won emphatically at Cardiff showing off their brand new style of all out attack cricket only to cower to the history of the Ashes at Lords. Next stop, fortress Edgbaston; London is shit anyway. Whilst not necessarily Steven Finn's ground with swing and seam not being his natural weapons of choice on this day it wasn't important. Finn’s game relies on his pace and speed through the air and his ability to hurry batters. Comfortably outbowled in the first innings by both Broad and Anderson (which is no slight on Finn's bowling as he still picked up the 2 big wickets of Steve Smith and Michael Clarke) with the latter performing his standard routine. Anderson had the ball on a string and Cook's fingers were slowly tightening around the urn. Nathan Lyon was clean bowled, Jimmy had 6 fer and England were sent in to bat. Joe Root, Ian Bell and Moeen Ali dazzled with a 50 for all 3 batters as England clawed their way into a lead just below 150. Time to bowl again, come on Jimmy just get another 6 please and thanks.
The second innings began and everything was business as usual, Rogers was out early (LBW to Stuart Broad) but Jimmy wasn’t there. Something was clearly wrong and later in the match Englands star bowler and attack leader left the field with a side strain. England needed someone to deliver and Stuart Broad, despite his early breakthrough, wasn’t quite at the races either. England needed something, to stop the game slipping away from their grasp, runs were flowing but wickets were not tumbling with the same metronomic regularity of the first innings.
Enter Steven Finn. Hair flowing, limbs as gangly and discombobulated as ever but boy oh boy did he find his rhythm; Steven Finn once again found his groove and Englands new attacking methods (his economy finished out at 3.76 not far off the one he was dropped for at Adelaide) were suitably justified. Lords double centurion Steve Smith was gone before an out of sorts Michael Clarke and the ever dangerous Adam Voges were removed in consecutive deliveries. Finn was on the move and his bowling was unmatched. Australia simply could not help but get out to him and Finn wasn’t just taking the easy wickets either, Finn dismissed numbers 3-8 including Australias main weapons and essentially took them out of the game and reduced their lead to a mere 120 which England chased with relative comfort through the beauty of Joe Root and a re-emergent Ian Bell. Throughout Finn's spell there was a sense of the fans reconnecting with one of the most loveable players in the game and throughout his 21 overs the noise in the ground grew and grew every time he turned at the top of his mark. Often we discuss the quirks and cliches of Stuart Broad's magic spells and Finn ticked all the boxes. Legs pumping, arms swinging, the crowd roaring with every single delivery stride before almost losing it when he finally released the ball. 6 wickets, Finn on fire, Edgbaston roaring, what more could you ask for?
The 2015 Ashes is widely regarded as ‘Cook's redemption’ but it was the redemption of the whole team. England were down and out and going into the series everyone believed that this would be the worst home drubbing seen in years if not decades. But this England were better and with their new found freedom, instilled by head coach Trevor Bayliss and then beat into their heads by Paul Farbrace, they got revenge. No one embodied this new found freedom better than the recalled Finn. Long gone were the days of every delivery being a personal battle to not fall and hit the stumps, the days of attempting to hit the same spot every ball, this was Finn proving that what he does is unique and that England need to embrace his unique set of skill as when they do and everything clicks he is a match winner. England were resurgent, one hand was on the urn and nothing could stop them. Who needs Jimmy Anderson anyway?