sport

Finn eradicating stumps problem

England fast bowler Steven Finn insists he is close to kicking his costly habit of knocking over the stumps in his delivery stride.

Finn has already had two international wickets chalked off, for himself and his team, when the umpire has ruled 'dead ball' rather than raise his finger after Finn disturbed the bails with his knee as he approached the stumps.

There will be no final warning either, should he do so again in Friday's Twenty20 decider against New Zealand at the Westpac Stadium, because he has already had that in the first match of the series.

An umpires' directive appears to have drawn a line in the sand which means from now on - in all series, as in last month's one-day internationals in India - Finn has just a single second chance before he runs the risk of losing a hard-earned wicket if he transgresses again.

The 6ft 8in seamer is convinced, however, that neither he nor England will need to fret about that much longer - because his bad habit will soon be history.

Finn has worked hard in the nets with bowling coach David Saker, in the time available between England's hectic schedule of matches, to put things right.

"It's getting there, getting better ... and it'll be gone soon," he said.

In the meantime, he has resolved to pull off a trick of the mind every time he plays to make sure he is not distracted.

Many bowlers, intent on keeping a tight line by getting in close to the stumps, have occasionally dislodged the bails with their bowling hand as it arcs back into delivery.

But Finn's foible is a unique trait.

"It's not something that can preoccupy my mind in the game - because I can't allow it to," he added.

"But every day in training I'm working hard on trying to eradicate it.

"I have been for the last four months.

"It's something that's obviously going to have to improve, and it is.

"I'm trying different things, and out in the game it's not happening as frequently as it used to.

"So I hope there will be a stage where it's completely eradicated."

Among the options open to Finn, which it is thought might help him keep his right knee under control, is the possibility of shortening his run.

He and Saker are also playing close attention to the dimensions of his jump into delivery - the crux of most fast-bowling techniques but one which features relatively sparely in Finn's case.

"I've got the marker, where I jump from, and I'm trying to jump in a straighter line," he said.

"But the amount of cricket we play, I haven't had too much time to actually go away and spend a lot of time working on it.

"You let it occupy your mind in practice. But when you're out there on the field, there's only one thing that matters - and that's getting the person out at the other end.

"When I'm out there in the middle, it's not in my mind at all."

He is adamant too that the problem is not affecting his form.

"No, I don't think so," he said.

"I bowled well in that one-day series in India, and feel as though I've been in good rhythm since I've been over here in New Zealand.

"If anything it'll help me to get a little bit quicker, and have a little bit more control."

No one has spoken directly to Finn to spell out that he has had his last chance for this series, but somehow he seems to have got the gist anyway.

"No one's told me," he added.

"I think it changes every single time ... it's the umpires' perogative.

"But I'm sure it's a dead ball from now on.

"It's each to their own. Whoever makes the rules, it's up to them to do that and for us to abide by them.

"The easiest thing is not to do it any more. So I'm not running up, thinking 'I've got one for this game'."

Among those who might conceivably benefit - or otherwise, for example, if a dead-ball call comes after the batsman has hit Finn for four or six - is Brendon McCullum.

New Zealand's hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman and captain was a team-mate of Finn's when the seamer played for Otago between England tours last winter.

He does not remember any stump-kicking episodes then, and is backing Finn to sort out the problem.

"The rule has been laid down. I'm sure it will continue to be assessed as we go along," said McCullum.

"It can be slightly distracting. It's not ideal - and I'm sure, knowing Finny, he is trying to improve that aspect of his performance."