STEVE FINN just might have picked the perfect moment for his first County Championship game for Middlesex in more than two months.
The ECB’s six week ‘strengthening programme’ means the Panthers’ pace-man hasn’t bowled a ball in anger in four-day cricket since the game with archrivals Surrey at the Oval in the middle of May.
And in normal circumstances the last place you’d choose to end such an exile would be the batting paradise of Uxbridge against the Division Two leaders Sussex in the game starting on Wednesday(July).
However, Finn’s sneak preview of the Gatting Way wicket on Monday was enough to convince him it may be the quick bowlers’ turn to hold sway at the county’s senior out-ground.
He said: "It looks to have more grass on it than any wicket I’ve ever seen at Uxbridge and after six weeks off I can’t wait to have a bowl and extract some juice out of it.
"It looks the type of pitch where if you put the ball in the right areas you will get your reward."
With Finn and fellow England team-mates Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan in harness, it means Middlesex will field their best side for the one and only time this season.
The trio’s absence on international duty has been a key factor in Middlesex currently propping up Division Two and fighting against the prospect of lifting the wooden spoon for the first time in their history.
But while the 21-year-old admitted the conflict of club versus county is a catch 22 for the tenants of Lord’s, he insisted the talent in the rest of the squad means they can’t use the England absentees as an excuse for underperforming so far in 2010.
He added: "Losing players to international cricket while trying to get promotion to Division One is a catch 22, but it is the club’s aim to produce England cricketers and they weren’t expecting to miss me this year so couldn’t plan for that.
"And if you have Straussy, Morgs and myself playing you’d have a relatively stronger side.
"But the group of players we’ve got here is capable of getting promotion from Division Two which is a pretty poor division – we’ve just played poorly
"The talent is there - Tom Smith was a revelation in the Twenty/20, Gareth Berg and Neil Dexter have been capped and then there’s Dawid Malan.
"But it’s up to those in the first team to perform week in week out."