THE drinks will be on the ‘Watford Wall’ Steven Finn when he returns home after his nightwatchman heroics helped England salvage a draw in the first Test against New Zealand.
Come what may in two more matches of a series England were expected to win easily, Finn has earned rich reward from team-mates for almost five hours of defiance on the final day at the University Oval in Dunedin.
Captain Alastair Cook and James Anderson, previous incumbent as England’s resident nightwatchman, both promised to ship two cases of wine to Finn’s house as an incentive during his maiden half-century – not just in Tests, but any professional cricket.
Shunted up from No9 to 3, Finn made a nonsense of his previous first-class best 32 with a painstaking innings of 56 which delayed the Kiwis for 203 balls, allowing England to reach 421 for six – 128 runs in front thanks to Cook’s 24th Test century, fellow opener Nick Compton’s first and 52 from Jonathan Trott.
It means England can after all head for the second Test in Wellington all square, despite a first-innings collapse to 167 all out.
“All I know is there will be a few cases of wine being sent to my house back in England,” the fast bowler told www.ecbtv.co.uk. “I think it was a case of wine from Cook and a case from Jimmy, if I saw it through to lunch and then tea.
“So I’ve got four cases of wine coming my way, I think.” Finn could perhaps have been forgiven for more animated celebrations when he completed his 50.
But mindful of other tailenders’ histrionics in similar circumstances, and unfamiliar with the etiquette despite a top score of 106 in club cricket, he was calm.
“I remember watching Glenn McGrath and he was riding his bat like a pony,” said Finn. “I thought to myself I wasn’t going to do that. I haven’t done it for years. So it was a bit alien holding the bat up, but good fun.”
And Cook can consider his and Anderson’s outlay well-spent – with repeat tactics ready should the situation recur.
“Bribing Steven seemed to work, so maybe we can apply that again,” he said. “He gets well-rewarded for his efforts today. He’s done very well out of a few of the lads.”
Finn did so well, Cook’s opposite, Brendon McCullum, was shocked by his improvement since they played together in New Zealand domestic cricket.
Asked if he was surprised a nightwatchman could occupy the crease so long, the Kiwi captain said: “Yes, especially Finny. He played at Otago and I’ve seen his batting before … he’s certainly worked on it.” Cook too was surprised and delighted. “The way Steven applied himself was fantastic,” he said. “I certainly didn’t know he had that in him and I don’t think he did either.
“But it shows when you really put your mind to something and you’re very disciplined on a flat wicket, anyone can make themselves very hard to get out.”
Finn was vindicating England’s decision to replace Anderson as nightwatchman – and Cook’s confidence in Compton was also borne out. He said: “It’s always a great time to be part of that history when someone scores their first hundred.”
Kevin Pietersen is expected to be fit for next week’s second Test, despite concern over pain in his right knee, while New Zealand announce their squad for the second Test today, with an update on frontline seamer Doug Bracewell’s availability.