Today, Steven Finn broke a long-standing record by becoming the fastest man in English test history to get to 50 test wickets. At just 22 years and 63 days, and in his 12th test match, Finn has broken the previous record (set by Ian Botham) by 6 months. Pretty good going.
So for someone who clearly takes wickets, and has an average of 26, why hasn't Finn been in the team? Dropped after Perth and only back in here thanks to Jimmy Anderson's injury, Finn hasn't nailed down a place in the team, and chances are he'll drop out again when Anderson returns.
The key stat to look at is Finn's run rate in tests. 3.97. While he has a very handy knack of taking wickets, he does leak runs, and with a lot of England's plans revolving around keeping it tight and creating pressure, having a leaky bowler who is spraying it around can undo all of the hard work created at the other end. At the time of being dropped during the Ashes, Finn was the leading wicket taker of the series, but at what cost? His economy rates Down Under don't make pretty reading - 3.71, 6.25, 4.43, 3.33, 4.61, 5.73. While England valued his wickets, they went for the more frugal Tim Bresnan at Melbourne, and the rest is history.
But, while Finn struggles to stem the flow of runs, he does have that very happy knack of taking wickets. 50 wickets in 12 matches is testament to that. Finn is a young man, and is still learning his craft as a fast bowler. No doubt in time he'll be able to keep it tight and bowl far more consistently, but at the moment he sprays it around far too often. When Anderson, or even Bresnan becomes fit again, the question has to be whether England value a man who will take wickets at a high tariff, or create pressure and be less effective but more cheap.
It is a tricky one. Ultimately it's wickets that win test matches, and Finn takes wickets. But a lot of England's plans revolve around stifling the opposition, and forcing mistakes caused by scoreboard pressure. While Tremlett and Broad hardly covered themselves in glory this test match, normally England's attack is a much less generous proposition, and may have winkled out a few more wickets yesterday thanks to a low run rate forcing Sri Lankans to take risks attempting to force the pace.
Will Finn be dropped to make way when Anderson returns? Probably. The Andocracy have made it clear what their plans are for successful test cricket, and they can't afford to have one leaky bowler conceding over a hundred each innings. But will Steven Finn take hundreds more test wickets for England? Absolutely. Finn is still learning his craft, and there's nowhere more unforgiving than in test cricket. As Finn matures and grows in experience, any question about him being an expensive bowler will be out of the window, and he'll be an automatic pick as part of England's attack. But he quite clearly isn't there yet (as Matt Prior's 25 byes can testify) and what Finn needs to do is to go away from the glare of international cricket for a while, and just bowl. He's been very good in taking his first 50 test wickets. He'll be excellent as he takes his next few hundred.