A Tale of Two Players

Watching the Pro 40 play-off between Middlesex and Northants at Southgate this afternoon on Sky, two players stood out.

The first, the 18 year-old Middlesex seam bowler Steven Finn, looks a very good bet to be an international bowler of the future, despite the fact that Bob Willis appears to have taken a particular liking to him.

He's tall and generates good pace, seam movement and occasionally disconcerting bounce from a straight, rhythmic run and a high delivery stride which is slightly, but not excessively, chest-on, in the modern vogue. He's slim but will surely develop further physically over the next few years. I saw him bowl equally well in the flesh last Saturday at Taunton and both three-wicket spells augured well for what he could do in the future on more helpful pitches and with more overs at his disposal.

When presenting Finn with the match award the normally gloomy Willis said something about him soon being in the England side. Premature and tempting fate, I thought, but equally, I wouldn't be surprised to see him there sooner rather than later. Finn himself, who only left school a couple of months ago, said that he'd be delaying going to university so that he can play full-time next season. I'll be surprised if he ever gets to university, unless it's after a long and successful career in the first-class game.

David Sales, the most polished batsman on show, is at a very different stage in his career. Although undoubtedly one of the most talented English batsmen of his generation and the youngest player from this country to make both first-class double and triple-centuries, he's never got very near to an England cap. It's hard to say why, other than some consistency issues earlier in his career, a dreadful knee injury which cost him a whole year's cricket and the fact that he's spent his entire career at Northampton, never an easy place from which to get noticed by selectors, especially these days.

Rising thirty now, Sales remains an uncomplicated and powerful striker of the ball with the type of assured temperament which I think would have stood him in good stead at international level. It's unlikely now that he'll ever get the opportunity and you can't help feeling that at the end of his career we'll be left to wonder how more than one player with a good deal less natural ability - Nasser Hussain, Paul Collingwood - knows what it is to make a Test match double-century when Sales doesn't even know what it is to wear an England cap.

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