Steven Finn has been ruled out of the first match of England's three-Test series against Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi through injury. The Middlesex seamer was believed to be battling with Mark Wood for the final bowling slot alongside fellow pacemen James Anderson, Stuart Broad and spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, enhancing his claims for a start with impressive figures of 4-16 and seven maidens during the second warm-up match against Pakistan A.
Coach Trevor Bayliss admitted that the recent performances of Wood and Finn had made it a difficult choice, although a stress injury to the latter's left foot has now made the process much easier.
"Absolutely, he was [in contention to play]," England captain Alastair Cook confirmed of Finn, who returned from a difficult spell to impress during the recent Ashes series win, in his final press conference before the first Test begins on Tuesday 13 October. "His performance in that warm-up game was good. But after that game, he complained of a pain in his foot and obviously it's got worse.
"It's a bitter blow for Finn. He bowled really well in that warm-up game, and over the last 12 months he's made huge strides back to where we'd like him to be. We'll monitor him, and hope he could be right for the second Test – but we'll have to wait and see."
Cook also confirmed that Ali, previously slotted in at eight, will join him in opening the batting against Pakistan, with Adam Lyth having lost his spot in the squad with a series of underwhelming performances and Nottinghamshire's Alex Hales yet to prove himself worthy. Rashid will make his debut, meanwhile, and Anderson is back from a side strain.
Pakistan are facing a big injury concern of their own after star leg-spinner Yasir Shah suffered from back spasms during a net session. The 29-year-old has taken 61 wickets in just 10 Test appearances for his country and would have been expected to add to that tally against a side that tend to struggle badly against spin on dusty pitches, such as those in the Middle East.
"We're hoping he'll be fine," skipper Misbah-ul-Haq said. "But obviously he's a key player for us, so we're really concerned about it. It's a back spasm, I think. He just tried to bowl a delivery and his spikes stuck in the turf. He felt something in his back. Let's see how it feels overnight."
In other cricket news, former New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori is set to work extensively with England Performance Programme spinners in Dubai next month.