Finch set for Ashes trial in UAE

Aaron Finch’s expected Test selection in the UAE next month may have as much to do with his suitability to play in next year’s Ashes as it does his competence against spin.
Finch was a surprise pick in Australia’s 15-man squad for the two Tests against Pakistan but now appears almost certain to play the first Test, most likely batting in the middle order.
It has been widely interpreted that Finch was picked, in part, due to his assured handling of spin bowling in Asian conditions, albeit in ODI cricket. In that format Finch has averaged nearly 40 in Asia at a strike rate of 99, and across his career has averaged 48 against spin.
Against spin in ODIs, Finch uses his feet nicely, has a powerful sweep shot and exploits the full depth of the crease to cut and pull any deliveries which are marginally short.
The selectors will hope he can bat with similar fluency against spin on Test debut in the UAE, where Australia’s batsmen were flummoxed by the home tweakers last time they toured four years ago. In that series. leg spinner Yasir Shah and left arm finger spinner Zulfiqar Babar ran amok, combining for 26 wickets at 21.
On their more recent tours of Asia, Australia have talked up their horses-for-courses selection strategy, one which seems to have helped Finch finally earn a Test squad berth.
Is Finch the answer to Australia’s spin woes? (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
After announcing the squad to tour the UAE, Australian chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns praised Finch’s “sensational form” and said he added generous experience and leadership to the group.
What he didn’t mention was Finch’s success in English county cricket in recent years, something I believe may well have been a factor in his selection. Although The Ashes is still ten months away, it undoubtedly will be on the minds of the selectors as they look to mould a team they believe can finally win a Test series in England.
With doubt over the Test future of the banned David Warner, and question marks over the stability of Australia’s middle order, the selectors may see Finch as an Ashes insurance policy.
By getting him into the Test team now, should Finch thrive in the longest format in the UAE and across six home Tests this summer, he’ll be well prepared for his first Ashes.
On the surface, Finch does not look like the type of batsman who would be suited to playing against the Dukes in England. In ODI cricket he can be leaden footed, and tends to rely on his hand-eye coordination.
But the proof is in the pudding – the Yorkshire pudding, to be specific. Across 15 matches for that county and for Surrey in Division One of the County Championship, Finch has made 823 runs at 43. He has passed 50 six times in 20 innings across those stints, a good indication of consistency.
Finch clearly has improved as a batsman in recent years yet, as far back as four years ago, he was showing impressive aptitude against the swinging Dukes ball against good county bowlers. His first county ton, in 2014, came in a low-scoring match against a Warwickshire attack featuring four bowlers who had played Test cricket – Chris Woakes, Boyd Rankin, Jeetan Patel and Rikki Clarke.
Since then, Finch has piled up 2,297 runs at 49 in first-class cricket. While he has only scored five tons in that time, he has passed fifty once per 2.8 innings, a highly-impressive ratio.
Of course, none of this guarantees Finch even a modicum of success next winter against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, or in the UAE.
But it will have given the selectors a reason to consider Finch as a strong option for the next Ashes, which in turn may help him get picked to make his Test debut next month.

Oh India, what could have been?

Let’s look at an Indian team who leave England with what ended up being a bit of a ‘what could have been?’ series for the visitors.
KL Rahul
A stylish and gifted opener, but just could not get going all summer. Became part of a brittle top order that, besides the third Test, gave very little protection to their middle order. Made almost half of his runs in the last innings where India was always going to lose and the series was over.
His 149 runs out of 299 series runs came in that innings. Should be reaching his peak over the next 3 to 4 years and will need a big summer in Australia for Kohli to keep them faith in him. Rating – 4.
Murali Vijay
It’s hard to believe a batsman with the talent of Vijay could average under 40 in Test cricket. Was all at sea for the two Tests he played and was rightly dropped and sent home, possibly never to be seen again. Rating – 1.
Shikhar Dhawan
Like Rahul and Vijay his Test average has taken a bit of a battering on the two overseas tours to South Africa and England. Only showed some quality in the third Test where he was disciplined in making a start. Besides that offered very little. Rating – 3.
Cheteshwar Pujara
With the top order failing needed to give his team stability with Kohli. Did so with a good 72 at Nottingham before a brilliant century at Southhampton, but wasn’t enough overall. Questionable overseas performances in the past and although not as bad as the three players above, didn’t deliver quite enough for his team. Rating – 6.
Virat Kohli
In the first Test of the summer, played one of the all time great Test performances in a losing team, where he almost single-handedly (Sharma and Ashwin helped with the ball) carried his team to a win.
Kohli was a lone bright spot for the Indians. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Was head and shoulders above the next best batsmen over the summer in terms of run scoring and class. Put to bed the problems he had four years prior in England making 593 runs at close to 60. Seemed to be a bit jaded by the end of the tour which could have been from just needing to do too much in this team of struggling batsmen. Use of DRS needs to improve. Rating – 9.
Ajinkya Rahane
Really struggled early in the series, getting out to balls he didn’t really need to play at. Made 81 in the third Test and was almost the hero with a second innings partnership of 101 with Kohli in the second innings at Southhampton in an attempt to keep the series alive which did not eventuate. However, an average of mid 20s wasn’t enough for the team’s vice captain and experienced batsmen. Rating – 5.
Dinesh Karthik
Struggled with the gloves and struggled with the bat. Rating – 1.
Rishabh Pant
His footwork behind the stumps to the seamers needs to improve. It resulted in a couple of dropped catches that good keepers would have taken. However, he is young and nerves of a first Test series may have been an issue.
Pant clearly can bat and, although a short individual, can hit the ball a long way. His approach when chasing a total in the fourth Test was the right one despite the fact it didn’t come off, and a century in the final Test will see him remain as India’s keeper for future Test matches.
India could have one here. Must continue to work hard and develop his keeping as there is a lot of room for improvement here. Rating – 6.
Ravichandran Ashwin
Started the series quite brilliantly and bowling Cook with very similar deliveries was outstanding. But he fell away as the series went on due to injury and a lack of form. Although a great bowler in the sub continent, questions still remain on his quality outside of Asia. Rating – 4.
Ishant Sharma
India’s best bowler. Bowled a wonderful spell before tea in the first Test that had England at 7/87 and should have really carried India to a Test win. His around the wicket bowling to the left handers was a handful throughout. Rating – 8.
Mohammed Shami
16 wickets at 38 on wickets that suited his seam upright bowling just wasn’t enough.
You get the feeling that if Bhuvneshwar Kumar played in these conditions he would have taken 8-10 more wickets than this at an 8-10 better average. Rating – 5.
Jasprit Bumrah
Despite having the worst action in world cricket, he has got a very big heart and can bowl at good speed. 15 wickets at a mid 20s average was just rewards for a bowler who has done well in 2018 and will lead the attack with Sharma in Australia. Rating – 8.
Umesh Yadav
Not enough control and Kohli didn’t have the patience to wait for it to get better. Rating – 2.
Hanuma Vihari
A fifty on debut was a nice way to start a Test career, and managed to take 3-38 with what some parts of the cricketing world would call ‘fruit salad’. Rating – 6.
The 4-1 series score may have been harsh on India but, when the first and fourth Tests where there for them to take, they just didn’t grab their opportunities.
The series seemed to pass India by when they were arm’s reach from taking hold of it. A frustrating tour where an over reliance on one batsman became their greatest problem.
Some positives with the batting of Virat Kohli, the bowling of Ishant Sharma and the potential of Rishabh Pant as they look forward to a tour of Australia later in the year.