After Nick Compton was left out of the 13 man squad and both Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann confirmed their fitness, the only decision coach Andy Flower is left with ahead of the Ashes is who will be England’s third seamer.
What a horrible headache to have. Such an arduous task is selecting from Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions, that it may well be the case that the winner of this star-studded bowl off won’t be made aware of their inclusion until the morning of the first Test, getting underway on Wednesday.
The three hopefuls were given the opportunity to showcase their skills in the recent LV= Challenge Match contested between England and Essex. However, with the contest ceasing to be such with substitute players taking an active role in the game for Essex, stripping it of its first class status, the match descended into a farcical situation with not a lot being proved.
Bresnan hit a fine unbeaten century with the bat whilst the match was still deemed to be first class, but including the burley Yorkshireman on the basis he might hit a few runs down the order isn’t the way to go. There should be enough faith in England’s top order, bolstered by the return of Kevin Pietersen, to pick the third seamer on his bowling abilities alone.
Amist the chaos at Chelmsford, Bresnan took just one wicket in the match; his counterparts Finn and Onions took three and five respectively. Whilst not proving much, Finn and Onions certainly suggested they have the ability to be more threatening with the ball.
However, Bresnan has been in respectable form with the ball this summer; he has 16 wickets to his name with an average of 24.56 in his four first class games for Yorkshire.
Another factor that may lead to his inclusion is the fact he took 15 wickets at Trent Bridge, where the first test is being held, in the period between 2011 and 2012. Clearly a happy hunting ground for Bresnan, and if conditions suit him again he may well get the nod.
Onions, potentially about to play in his first test match for over a year, has once again steamrolled through county batting line-ups this summer. 35 wickets at 23.20 in seven games for Durham speaks for itself.
Injury has prevented the swing bowler from having a prolonged international career, but when called upon he’s always put in a fantastic shift. However, despite Onions’ considerable talents, the call up was somewhat of a shock to most and only the element of surprise for the Australians may lead to his inclusion on Wednesday.
The front runner for the role would appear to be Finn. Taking eight wickets at 20.02 in the two Test series against New Zealand earlier on in the summer, he’s the man who currently holds the position and hasn’t done anything wrong to be dislodged from his place.
The pace and bounce of the 6ft 7in bowler complements the swing of Anderson and Broad, adding an extra dimension to England’s attack. Australia’s fragile batting line-up will surely succumb on many occasions to the vicious deliveries of Finn throughout the series.
Strength in depth is never a bad thing and England have all bases covered for any eventualities come Wednesday morning; three different executers in style of seam bowling all at the top of their game. The case is strong for each and conditions may dictate who is selected, but I can’t look past Steven Finn as third seamer throughout the series.
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