Finn can stand tall

  • By: Dave Tickner
  • Last Updated: December 4 2012, 21:01 GMT

Our Dave Tickner is expecting Steven Finn to make a big impact on the third Test between India and England.

Steven Finn: Likely to feature in Kolkata
Steven Finn: Likely to feature in Kolkata

England's win - and its dominant manner - in the second Test certainly came as a surprise to us and leaves us slightly scratching our heads ahead of the next instalment in the series.

India's obsession with the pitch in Mumbai - one that has apparently continued in Kolkata - was indicative of a side that had taken its eye off the ball and lost focus on what truly mattered.

We were happy to side with them in Mumbai at evens on the back of a thumping win; we can't have them at just a shade bigger than that after a thumping defeat.

But can we really back England, even at 11/4? Certainly at the prices they now make more appeal than the hosts but for all the brilliance of their victory at the Wankhede, it was one built on a few stunning performances rather than all-round excellence. The two spinners collected 19 of the 20 wickets to fall, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen scored were the only men to pass 30 with the bat.

A drop-off from any one of that quartet would leave a hole that no-one else has, to date, looked like filling.

And as we're told to expect another raging Bunsen, the draw doesn't look like the answer to our puzzle either.

So having ruled out any of the outrights, we head elsewhere.

Our first port of call is India's opening partnership. Although both Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have shown some flashes of form in this series, neither man truly convinces. Sehwag looks vulnerable to Monty Panesar, and Gambhir to Graeme Swann. And after Mumbai, you can be sure that England will be prepared to turn to spin early on at Eden Gardens.

Sky Bet offer 5/6 either side of 32.5 for India's opening partnership, and we're happy to play under at that figure. Only three of their last 14 stands have been over that mark, with seven of the other 11 failing to reach even 20. Both opening partnerships were broken below 32 in Mumbai.

Another reason to suspect India's openers may struggle is the likely inclusion of Steven Finn in place of the woefully out-of-form Stuart Broad.

Fit, fresh and firing after injury kept him out of the first two Tests, Finn will be looking to build on an already-impressive record in Asia for a quick bowler.

In 54 internationals for England (Tests, ODIs and T20s), Finn has taken 126 wickets at 25s; in Asia he's taken 43 from 21 matches at 20s.

It's a head-scratcher; why should a tall, fast bowler have a superior record in conditions that don't particularly help him? The obvious answer is that he's up against players ill-equipped to dealing with such a threat.

India's apparent obsession with spin - and you can be sure it's something they will only have focused yet more attention on after the Swann and Monty Show in Mumbai - may leave them vulnerable to Finn, who was England's standout player on the dreadful 2011 one-day tour here in which he took eight wickets in the ODIs and three more in the T20 clash.

He looks worth siding with in a couple of markets here; he's been England's leading wicket-taker in seven of 30 innings in his Test career to date - including both innings of his last Test against South Africa at Lord's and is probably a point long at 5/1 to be top wicket-taker in India's first innings even given the dominance of spin in the series to date.

And, given that spinners have dominated the wicket-taking, notable success across both innings for a fast bowler would surely put him in the man-of-the-match shake-up where 20/1 looks a perfectly good price.

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