Blogs & Opinion

England can secure historic series win in India even if Steven Finn is ruled out, says Mike Atherton

Features - Michael Atherton Posted 12th December 2012 view comments

Alastair Cook can lead England to a long-awaited series victory over India this week in Nagpur, the city where he scored his first Test ton on debut nearly seven years ago.

The ground may be different - the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium has hosted only three Tests since 2008 - but given the prolific form Cook is currently in, you wouldn't bet against England's captain to produce more of the same and steer the tourists to their first series win in India since 1985.

Steven Finn: bagged 3-45 in India's second innings in Kolkata but is now a doubt

Steven Finn: bagged 3-45 in India's second innings in Kolkata but is now a doubt

Back then David Gower's side went into the final Test in Kanpur 2-1 up having fought back from a heavy defeat in the opening Test. They arrived at the ground to find a belter of a pitch and, happily for Cook's men, Nagpur looks like it will be pretty flat too. Gower on 1984/85


After their crushing Kolkata victory, all augurs well for England although the news that Steven Finn will have to pass a fitness Test on his back if he is to play is an immediate concern and perhaps one for the future too.

The present set of circumstances begs the question whether Meaker should have stayed with the squad even once Finn was declared fit to play at Kolkata

Mike Atherton
Quotes of the week

The seamer looked like somewhere near his best form in Calcutta, where he bowled quickly and straight and got the ball to reverse nicely. Back in the side, he will have seen that game as a springboard to establish himself as one of England's frontline bowlers.

So it will be a blow if he misses out this week and another setback in what has already been a stop-start career. England would love to have his pace here on a pitch that is very, very hard and has cracks all over it - solid, abrasive cracks that will help the ball to reverse.

That said the outfield is as green and lush as I can remember an outfield being in India, so that will counteract any reverse swing.

Any time you hear of a young fast bowler with a back problem alarm bells start to ring in your mind and you ponder the question 'is something in his action putting strain on his back?'

The good news is that Finn's action looks pretty solid to me; rather than being all over the crease, he bowls in straight lines and he doesn't bowl with a 'mixed' action either. His is a well-grooved, repeatable action so let's just hope that this problem is a one-off strain rather than any long-term issue.


Surrey's Stuart Meaker - in India with the Performance Squad - was on stand-by for the third Test and I would be surprised if he's not called into the squad now because in terms of pace and reverse swing he's Finn's natural replacement, even if he is shorter and more skiddy.

The present set of circumstances begs the question whether Meaker should have stayed with the squad even once Finn was declared fit to play at Kolkata? By keeping him and sending either Tim Bresnan or Graham Onions away, England would then have had replacements for each type of bowler.

If Meaker is not called up then I suspect that England will probably go for Bresnan, who lost his place after the opening Test defeat in Ahmedabad - a match in which he looked pretty innocuous.

Bresnan will be itching to get back into the side but it has to be said that he's not looked as sharp recently as he did on England's 2010/11 Ashes tour when he came in for Finn. Ever since he had a slight elbow injury his pace looks a bit down; he's not been hitting the pitch or the bat as hard and I think that was the look of it in Ahmedabad, even allowing for the fact that it was a very flat pitch.

Bresnan has been around the team more than Onions, who I think is a very, very good bowler - he's lively and bowls from close to the stumps.

Apparently Onions bowled so-so in the warm-up games but otherwise hasn't got overs under his belt and the fact that he hasn't played in such a long time might just tilt the selectors towards Bresnan, whose batting also lengthens the lower middle-order.

We'll have to see if Stuart Broad, dropped for the third Test and now ruled out of the fourth with a bruised heel, recovers in time for next week's Twenty20 internationals.

It's been a difficult tour for him so far with injury and illness, plus one or two spats with the media along the way, hampering his progress. He has yet to take a wicket, too, so a skipper he'd love the chance to get back onto the pitch and turn things around.


The more pressing question, in terms of this week's Test, is can India turn things around?

The selectors have made changes to the squad but these are neither sweeping nor seismic and have the distinct whiff of 'muddling along'.

That cannot be right for a side that has lost 10 of its last 16 Tests and, it has to be said, looked distinctly ragged in Kolkata.

Not only was some of the running between the wickets pathetic, but the standard of fielding was bordering on the bizarre with players gesturing for each other to chase the ball.

Amid the action it's easy not to dwell on such small incidents but those in charge of Indian cricket must dwell on them and more importantly address them, otherwise the astonishing decline of a side that not so long ago topped the world Test rankings will surely continue.

Catch day one of the fourth Test between India and England from 3.30am on Thursday on Sky Sports 1 HD.

back to top

Other Experts:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....


Jeff Stelling

Jeff: Resting players is costing games

Why are clubs resting their stars in crucial games? It's costing them three points, says Jeff Stelling....

Jamie Carragher

Carragher: Which Blues are best?

Jamie Carragher reveals which Man City wizard and which Chelsea talisman he would have in his team....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....


Jamie Redknapp

Redknapp: Rodgers' balancing act

Jamie Redknapp expects Raheem Sterling to return, after Brendan Rodgers' rotation error against Aston Villa....

Stuart Barnes

Boks clever

Smart play from South Africa wasn't enough to beat a resilient New Zealand, says Stuart Barnes....

Barrie vs Terry

Barrie v Terry

Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor go head-to-head with their Super League play-off predictions......

Phil Clarke

A Super finish

Phil Clarke picks his most improved player of the Super League XIX season, but do you agree?...

Barrie vs Terry

Barrie v Terry

Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor go head-to-head with their Super League predictions......

Rob Lee

In a decent State

Europe are Ryder Cup favourites, says Rob Lee, but Team USA have plenty of reasons to be optimistic....

Richard Boxall

Wild boys

Richard Boxall says Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup picks bring Gleneagles nous, experience and passion....

Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond Blog

Alex Hammond looks ahead to another big weekend of racing...

Alex Hammond

Hear the Music!

Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing including the feature Betfred Sprint Cup....

Alex Hammond

Look to the Future

Alex Hammond on a fantastic week at York and picks three best bets for this weekend, including Godolphin's Future Empire...

Neal Foulds

Selby steel

New world champion Mark Selby's the master of match play, says Neal Foulds - but what's next for Ronnie?...


Neal Foulds

Trump tip

Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the Worlds - but Judd Trump could spring a shock, says Neal Foulds....


Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....


Kelvin Tatum

Back on track

Lakeside can make it two wins over Belle Vue Aces in four days, says Kelvin Tatum, but it'll be close!...


Kelvin Tatum

Hit the road

Swindon are struggling this season but will fancy their chances at Birmingham, says Kelvin Tatum....


Kelvin Tatum

Racing away

Belle Vue are unbeaten at home but Kelvin Tatum asks if they can transfer that form at Swindon....


Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......


Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....


Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....


Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...


Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....


Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....