‘Great man’ Phillip Hughes in England’s thoughts

Groundstaff cover the field after an afternoon thunderstorm caused England's practice session to be cancelled. Picture: Getty
Groundstaff cover the field after an afternoon thunderstorm caused England's practice session to be cancelled. Picture: Getty
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Steven Finn will remember a “great man” on the day of Phillip Hughes’ funeral – before England take the field against Sri Lanka.

Finn spoke for so many, colleagues and supporters but himself more than most of course, as he prepares for a uniquely difficult day.

It will begin here in southern Sri Lanka with television coverage doubtless on screens at the England team hotel of Hughes’ funeral service in his hometown of Macksville, New South Wales.

Within hours, weather permitting after a violent thunderstorm on the eve of today’s third one-day international, Finn and his team-mates must try to arrest England’s slide to a 2-0 deficit already in a seven-match series.

The fast bowler was just beginning to push for an England place as a 20-year-old hopeful at Middlesex when he met and played alongside Hughes shortly before the 2009 Ashes.

Five days on, the cricket world is still coming to terms with what happened to the former Australia Test batsman last week, hit on the neck by a bouncer in a Sheffield Shield match and then two days later – three before what would have been his 26th birthday – dying of his injuries.

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“I’d imagine anyone who is playing cricket anywhere around the world who had come across Hughesy in any shape or form is still trying to come to terms with it,” said Finn. “It still feels very surreal. Everyone will step aside and think about him and pay their respects in their own way.

“I know everyone in the England dressing room will do – and it is important we do that, because we’ve lost a great man.”

It is asking much, of course, of both England and Sri Lanka to play to their optimum.

Yet England in particular cannot afford to be off their game again, as they were in Colombo on Saturday when – by captain Alastair Cook’s own admission – they “never got going” on the way to an eight-wicket defeat.

World Cup aspirations are on the line, with little more than two months to go before England begin their campaign against Australia in Melbourne.

Yet it appears almost impossible to train thoughts simply on the next match, after the tragedy of Hughes’ death. “It is very, very sad – and I don’t think there is a cricketer in the world who hasn’t shed a tear for Phillip over the last week,” added Finn. “I only played with him for six weeks to two months at Middlesex, and played against him a fair amount for Australia, but he was an amazing guy.

“He is going to be sorely missed by lots of people, because he touched so many, and I know he did [so too] with everyone at Middlesex.

“Everyone is really sad about it. Everyone has been devastated by it.

“I will pay my respects to Phillip at some stage and everyone will be sad about it. But we have a game, and we will be playing it.” England, as before their last defeat, were unable to practice because of the rain. Finn, however, remains optimistic they can begin a much-needed fightback.

“If we can bat the way we did in the first ODI, that is a great template for us – and as bowlers, we need to adapt to conditions better. As a team we need to adapt better.”

Seamer Chris Woakes is recovering from his stomach upset, and is in contention to play.

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