Cricket

England give Steven Finn chance to prove fitness for Boxing Day Test

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Steven Finn will be given every chance to prove he is fit to play the Boxing Day Test against South Africa.

Finn was not named in the original 16-man squad due to a bone stress injury in his left foot but joined the party in Potchefstroom after a successful trip to Dubai with the England Lions.

Having sat out the first tour match against a South Africa Invitational XI the series opener in Durban looked an optimistic aim for the 6ft 7in paceman.

But bowling coach Ottis Gibson has worked at close quarters with Finn in recent days and has seen enough to consider him ready for action.

England complete their warm-up schedule with a three-day game against South Africa A starting on Sunday and Finn is pushing hard for a place.

"He's put himself in the frame," said Gibson.

"My understanding is that everybody is available for selection. Once he (Finn) made it here he was added to the squad and therefore, if he proves it in the next couple of days, he is ready.

"He has been excellent. He has obviously done a lot of work in the UAE and the guys over there who looked after him did a great job getting him up to speed.

"He has been topping up nicely and he has done a lot of good stuff here as well.

"He was bowling very well in the summer before he got injured and may well feel he was the bowler in possession."

With Alex Hales having been all but promised the second opener's slot, despite his modest performance at Senwes Park, and Jonny Bairstow keeping the gloves ahead of Jos Buttler, the identity of England's third seamer is the only real selection poser left.

As well as Finn, England have Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and uncapped left-armer Mark Footitt vying for the shirt.

And it is possible three of the four will face South Africa A, with new ball bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad rested.

The pair sent down just 11.1 overs between them in the tour opener but with just two days between the first and second Tests, workload management might already be a priority.

"You've got to look long term," said Gibson.

"There is an opportunity that they may look at somebody else because facilities being the way they are in this country you will have the chance to prepare somebody outside of the practice game for the Test match."

Anderson, aged 33 and his country's most prolific wicket-taker, is increasingly happy to work a reduced schedule outside of Test matches.

Gibson admitted as much, explaining: "He has probably earned that over his career, the amount of overs he has bowled for England and the wickets he has taken.

"The stage he is at in his career you treat him slightly different to someone who's just coming in, he's a very experienced senior pro and he knows exactly what he needs to get himself ready for a Test match nowadays."

Of all the contenders, Footitt's prospects appear to be on the wane.

He was erratic against modest opponents in Potchefstroom, taking two wickets but conceding at a worrying rate.

While Gibson, and England, remain supportive it appears he may need to show greater self-belief to press his case.

''There were obviously nerves and everything with it being his first bowl for England but he got a wicket and then settled down,'' explained Gibson.

''It's his bowling for Derbyshire over the last couple of years that has got him here and my message to him is to do exactly what he's been doing for them.

''There's no point him trying to be someone else when he gets here.

''He's impressed the selectors - that's why he got picked - so the best thing he can do now is relax in this environment."

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