Steven Finn, a man with a grudge against the Proteas, has been pulled out of the England Lions tour to take his place in the Test series against South Africa.
The fast bowler has a score to settle. The last time he played against South Africa was on the 2012 tour. It was at Headingley that Graeme Smith complained about his awkward delivery which saw him kicking over the stumps on a regular basis as he unleashed the ball. That led to such deliveries being called ‘dead ball’ (which was unfortunate on one occasion because Smith slammed it to the boundary, and even more unfortunate for Finn as Smith was caught in the slips off another).
There followed a new run-up, a crisis of confidence and a slide which led him to be labelled ‘unselectable’ in the Ashes tour to Australia in 2013-14.
But he has fought his way back with grim determination, so much so that he took six wickets in Australia’s second innings of the Edgbaston Test. At the Oval Finn took his 100th Test wicket and so far has 102 wickets at 28 apiece in his 26 Tests.
He will become the 17th member of this England tour party. Apart from James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the regular opening pair, England have Chris Woakes, Mark Footitt and Chris Jordan as their other seamers, along with the allrounder Ben Stokes.
It is understood that Finn is highly unlikely to be considered for the first Test starting in Durban on Boxing Day but will be available once his rehabilitation after his left ankle injury is complete.
Finn suffered bone stress in his left ankle during the warm-up games in Sharjah in early October and went home on the first day of the Test series with his left foot in plaster.
Meanwhile, England coach Trevor Bayliss has confirmed that Alex Hales will become captain Alastair Cook’s eighth opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012.
Bayliss said: ‘Halesy is now the other opener in the squad at this stage and I very much doubt whether anyone else would take that spot. I think he deserves his opportunity at the top of the order to try and make that spot his own.’
Jonny Bairstow was also reassured he will play in the first Test as wicketkeeper, despite Jos Buttler’s spectacular return to form during England’s one-day series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Buttler had been dropped for the final Test in Sharjah, handing the gloves to Bairstow, but returned to the same venue for the final ODI against Pakistan and hit a stunning 46-ball hundred, the fastest by an England player in the format, to seal a fine series victory for his side.
Bairstow will take the gloves for England’s opening tour match against a strong South Africa A side containing six full internationals at Senwes Park on Tuesday.
That game, and the one that follows against a South Africa XI in Pietermaritzburg, will see a shootout between Nick Compton and Gary Ballance for the No 3 position left vacant by the decision to drop Ian Bell for this tour.