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Finn ready for a return to England Lions

More than two months since having his fairytale comeback to Test cricket interrupted by a foot injury in the nets in Abu Dhabi, Steven Finn is ready to return for the England Lions in nearby Dubai.

Finn joined the England Performance Programme last week to step up a rehabilitation programme that had involved close co-operation between the medical staff at the National Cricket Performance Centre and his beloved Watford FC.

He has been bowling off his full run in the nets at the ICC’s Global Cricket Academy for the last couple of days, and has been given the all-clear to play for the Lions in one of the T20 matches against Pakistan A in the next two days as they aim to come from behind in the five-match series.

“It’s been nice to build it up from just cycling and stuff indoors and using the rehab facilities at Watford to start running outdoors on grass, to a point where I’m bowling off my full run and having no pain in my foot,” he said before a fielding session under floodlights at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium – where the next three games in the series will be staged. “It feels good at the moment and hopefully the added intensity of the games is another step for me. It’s handy to be able to come out here and have a bridge between the rehab in England to hopefully going out to South Africa, and it’s a good test of skill as well, to be able to flip between the formats and come out here and play Twenty20 games where you want to do yourself justice. That will be a nice competitive edge to things as a build-up.”

The forthcoming trip to South Africa cropped up regularly in conversation with Finn, even though as things stand he is not in the England squad for the Tests. After going more than two years between Tests from 2013 to 2015, his determination to thrust himself back into contention is understandable.

“A few things were said when I wasn’t in the squad about me being done for the tour, but I’m determined for that not to be the case,” he added. “When you’re injured you always want to get back as early as you can but you don’t want to push it to a point where you make the injury even worse. So we’ve been sensible. But I’ve had two and a half months now of not playing cricket and I think it’s come to a point now where I can start being realistic about going out to South Africa and hopefully playing a part over there. It’s a fine balance between making sure that my foot is right and doing myself justice and getting enough overs in practice.”

He is impressively phlegmatic about what must have been a bitter disappointment when he was ruled out of the Test series against Pakistan. “I had a good summer, and regaining the Ashes was a massive part of my career, so it did come at a frustrating time because I felt I was just getting my teeth into being a more regular player in the Test team,” admitted Finn, who has 102 wickets from his 26 caps. “I felt good within my bowling, I bowled nicely in that warm-up game, and I think I had a good chance of playing in the first Test. But professional sport is full of frustrations and setbacks, and the more you experience those the more it makes you appreciate the good times. Hopefully I can come back stronger from it, and if I make it through these games and out to South Africa, I can be a little bit fresher when I get out there.”

The one consolation for Finn of the injury was the opportunity it provided to get closer to Watford in what has so far been a successful return to the Premier League. “It’s been awesome,” he said, referring to both the form of the Hornets, and their generosity in allowing him to use their facilities. “I’m lucky enough that when I go to watch Watford I sit in the directors box and I’ve got to know the chief executive and a few other people there, and before I went out to the UAE they’d said I was always welcome to use their rehab facilities. Two weeks later I did get injured, and they’ve opened their arms to me. It’s my boyhood football club that I’ve supported since I can remember. The attacking, fluent football they’ve played has been fantastic, and they’re a thoroughly decent bunch of guys who have been so welcoming. It seems like they’re set for success for a little while which is very reassuring as a supporter.”

Our thanks go to Andy Wilson of the England and Wales Cricket Board for providing this update from Dubai.

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