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England’s Steven Finn bowls during a nets session at Old Trafford cricket ground before the fourth Test match of their five match series against India in Manchester, England, Aug 6. (AP)
England seek repeat win as India ponder options Tourists lack pace, physical threat without Sharma

MANCHESTER, UK, Aug 6, (AFP): England face the welcome problem of dealing with the consequences of winning ahead of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford starting on Thursday. Victory by the huge margin of 266 runs in the third Test at Southampton last week saw England level the five-match series at 1-1. It also ended a run of 10 Tests without a win for Alastair Cook’s side and saw the captain himself return to form with two fifties, although it could all have been so different had he been caught in the slips on 15 in the first innings. “Now everyone knows what it’s like (to win), the challenge is ‘can we repeat that at Old Trafford, and try to win the series?’”, said Cook.

England had another ‘victory’ less than a day after their Southampton success. James Anderson escaped a ban after International Cricket Council code of conduct commissioner Gordon Lewis dismissed disciplinary charges brought against him by India following his alleged confrontation with Ravindra Jadeja during the drawn first Test in Nottingham.

Given the fast-medium bowler, man-of-the-match in Southampton with a return of seven for 77, is the series’ leading wicket-taker with 16, England’s relief was understandable. Nevertheless, Anderson — now just 12 shy of equalling Ian Botham’s England Test record of 383 wickets — remains free to play at Old Trafford, his Lancashire home ground. While Moeen Ali produced a decisive second-innings return of six for 67 in Southampton to quieten talk regarding his ‘part-time’ off-spin, the performance of England’s back-up seamers in support of Anderson and Stuart Broad was a concern.
 
An injury to Liam Plunkett, dropped from the third Test team, has seen England recall Steven Finn.
The Middlesex fast bowler was sent home early from England’s disastrous tour of Australia, having not featured in the 5-0 Ashes thrashing and been deemed “unselectable” by then one-day coach Ashley Giles after ‘losing’ his action. Remedial work, designed to sort out run-up problems and a habit of knocking the stumps over with his right knee, under the guidance of Middlesex coach and England selector Angus Fraser, has seen the 6ft 7in Finn take 44 County Championship wickets at under 30 apiece so far this season.
 
The pitch at Old Trafford is known for being ‘lively’ and all-rounder Chris Jordan, with England having no need of his batting in Southampton after Cook declared twice, could lose his place to Finn after a poor bowling display last time out. “It will depend on what England see in the pitch over whether Steven plays,” Fraser told the Daily Telegraph. “But is he bowling as well as when he played for England in the past. The answer is yes.” For India, the need to match Ali’s threat could see off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin play his first Test this year in a bid to bolster an attack that looked a bowler ‘light’ at the Ageas Bowl. “Moeen bowled well (at Southampton) but we let him bowl well,” said India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
 
“It’s important to be positive against spinners.” In the absence of injured Lord’s star Ishant Sharma, also ruled out of the fourth Test, India lacked pace and a physical threat. Jharkand fast bowler Varun Aaron, who played his only Test two years ago, could come into the side although it would be tough on Pankaj Singh were he the bowler to make way. Singh recorded the worst wicketless figures by a Test debutant — none for 179 — in Southampton but was unlucky with both dropped catches and lbw appeals.
 
Someone with far less cause for complaint were he to be omitted is opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has scored just 122 runs in six innings this series with a top score of 37. Fellow left-hander Gautam Gambhir, who played the last of his 54 Tests against England in December 2012, is waiting in the wings. Whether Steven Finn plays in the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford on Thursday remains to be seen, but the fact he is back in an England squad represents a minor triumph for the Middlesex fast bowler. The 6ft 7in quick has taken 90 wickets in 23 Tests at an average of under 30 but hasn’t played in the five-day format since last year’s Ashes opener against Australia at Trent Bridge. 
 
Although included in England’s squad for the subsequent Ashes tour of Australia, Finn didn’t play a single international match and was sent home early after being deemed “unselectable” by then one-day coach Ashley Giles after ‘losing’ his action. But remedial work under the guidance of Middlesex boss Angus Fraser, the former England seamer who has since joined the national selection panel, has revived Finn’s career to the extent the 25-year-old has now taken 44 first-class wickets at 29.72 so far this season. An injury to Liam Plunkett led to Finn being called into England’s squad for the fourth Test, with the five-match series all square at 1-1.
 
Now there is a chance Finn will make the final XI even though that would mean England changing a winning side after their 266-run series-levelling success in Southampton — their first victory in 11 Tests.
“It’s just great for English cricket that Finny is getting back to his best,” England captain Alastair Cook said Wednesday. “He’s very different to what we have got: he’s a tall bowler who when he gets it right bowls at near 90mph. “It’s obviously been a very tough six months for him personally, so to fight through it I think he’ll be a stronger bloke for it and it will bode well for his cricket.” (AFP)

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