England will discover after a second scan on Steven Finn’s thigh injury today whether he is likely to play any part in their Test tour of India.
Finn was yesterday ruled out of the second match of four, starting in Mumbai on Friday but England remain optimistic he may yet be back in the reckoning for the third and fourth in Kolkata and Nagpur. After the tourists’ nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad, many were convinced fast bowler Finn was needed to try to start the fightback.
It is therefore discouraging already that, after a recurrence of the thigh strain he suffered three weeks ago, England must continue, in the short term at least, to get by without him. Finn’s unavailability does solve one selection problem, though.
England’s critics have also prescribed a return at the Wankhede Stadium for Monty Panesar as a second spinner – a scenario which might have put vice-captain Stuart Broad’s place under threat in a four-man attack. That vexed equation no longer threatens but Finn’s absence is a blow nonetheless to England’s chances of overturning historical trends by recovering from 1-0 down to win or even draw in India.
England coach Andy Flower broke the news on Finn yesterday. “He has unfortunately hurt his leg again, a couple of days ago, and is having another scan tomorrow. We don’t think he’s got any structural damage, but it would be careless to suggest he might play the second Test.”
Finn was cleared of serious injury when he first had a scan on his thigh at the start of the tour – and should the second tell the same tale, England hope he can prove his fitness in a three-day match for the Performance Programme squad who are shadowing them in India. Flower is taking nothing for granted. “I’ve got an open mind about it. Let’s see what his scan reveals tomorrow. We hope he goes and plays that three-day game, and comes through well. If he comes through that well, he’ll be available for the third and fourth Tests.”
The coach already had problems following England’s defeat at the Sardar Patel Stadium, their seventh in 12 Tests since the start of a chastening year after going to the top of the world rankings in August 2011.
“It’s disappointing to lose, and I think we’re all well aware that if you go one down in India it is a tough fightback,” he said. “But that’s what we’re here to do. We’ve still got three games to go.”
Flower and new captain Alastair Cook face an unenviable task to revive the team’s flagging fortunes in alien conditions, which have so often been England’s undoing.
Cook’s heroic second-innings 176 could not make up for faulty middle-order batting in Ahmedabad. But Flower is hoping England can draw some inspiration from their efforts in similar climes to draw 1-1 in Sri Lanka eight months ago. “We did the same in Sri Lanka, and had some success in the second Test match. That’s what we’ll be looking for here in Mumbai.
“We need our middle order to fire, some of our experienced batsmen to bring that experience to bear in the middle – not in training, but in the middle. That’s what we expect.”
Panesar’s return is probable, but Flower is reserving judgment until he has seen the second Test pitch. “Monty Panesar, of course, has a chance to play. We might well go with two spinners, but we’ll judge that when we actually see the conditions.”
• England batsman Ian Bell did not make it home in time yesterday to witness the birth of his first child, a son named Joseph William. Bell is expected to be back in India in time for the third Test.