Steven Finn is keeping his fingers crossed that he is the man chosen to replace the injured Stuart Broad for the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo. Broad was forced to fly home on Friday with a calf injury leaving England needing to fill a fast-bowling slot as they aim to level the series and cling onto their No. 1 Test ranking.
Finn, who has taken 50 wickets at 26.92 in 12 Tests, has endured a frustrating time on the sidelines of the five-day team despite consistently impressive one-day form against India and Pakistan. Since being dropped after the third Ashes Test in Perth he has played just one more match, against Sri Lanka at Lord's, but has made sure he has channelled his disappointment into a drive to improve.
"We don't know who is going to play, but if I get my opportunity I'm ready to take it," Finn said. "I have felt as though I have been ready for a little while now. I have done a lot of bowling this winter and a lot of work on becoming a better bowler. Hopefully I can reap the rewards of that if I get a chance."
Despite not yet playing a Test during England's overseas campaigns in 2012 Finn hasn't been short of bowling. He was the stand-out performer during the 5-0 one-day whitewash against India, taking eight wickets at 31.62, before a trip to New Zealand to play domestic cricket for Otago. He didn't fill his boots in the Plunket Shield - taking nine wickets in four matches - but it kept him ticking over. Then, after sitting out the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE, he claimed an outstanding 13 wickets at 10.30 in the four-match ODI series. Finn admits to moments of frustration but has learned to be patient.
"When you have the ups and downs of being in the mix but not playing you can feel down pretty quickly but it's a team game and we need to have a strong squad," he said. "We have to be able to compensate for injuries as we'll have to in this next Test match. All I can do as a back-up player is to be ready when the opportunity comes."
However, it may not be quite so simple as a straight swap of Finn for Broad. That one change would give England a tail of Finn, James Anderson and Monty Panesar which could leave Andy Flower uneasy. Tim Bresnan is an all-round option, although to play him as one two quicks may not be enough given Bresnan's lack of bowling in recent months so they may have to consider dropping Monty Panesar.
"Broad is a huge and important player for us but we've got a group of guys in the wings who can cover for him," Finn said. "But Broady is a massive part of the team and will be missed."
Finn also repeated the mantra from the dressing room that the team remains in good spirits despite four straight Test defeats. Another reversal in Colombo and England will concede top spot in the rankings to South Africa and it could get worse than that. If Australia then go on and whitewash West Indies in their three-Test series, they will move above England into second.
"Yes, we've lost four Tests this winter but we've been in positions to win three of them," Finn said. "We are not out of the hunt. We got to No. 1 for a reason and we just have to keep the belief. A lot of things over the last two or three years have gone our way and we realise it does come around to even itself out."