Steven Finn: latest casualty of England's Ashes tour from hell
Fast bowler is third player to quit tour as he returns to 'work on technical aspects of his game'
AND then there were fourteen. Steven Finn has become the third member of the original England Test squad to leave the tour prematurely, underlining once more the shambolic nature of what is being called the most disastrous Ashes tour England have ever embarked on.
Batsman Jonathan Trott dropped out after their first Test, returning home with a stress-related condition after the Australia bowlers had ruthlessly unpicked his technique. Then a month later, in the wake of defeat in the Third Test at Perth, Graeme Swann announced his immediate retirement from cricket, a decision met with respect in some quarters but ridicule in others, with former England captain Bob Willis accusing him of "throwing in the towel".
Swann's form disintegrated Down Under and it was alleged he took the decision in the knowledge he was to be dropped from the fourth Test in Melbourne.
If that wasn't bad enough, wicketkeeper Matt Prior, voted player of the year in 2012, also saw his game collapse, and he was left out of the final Test, while reserve spinner Monty Panesar was jettisoned before the Sydney Test, replaced by rookie wrist spinner Scott Borthwick, prompting suggestions that he too is on the international scrap-heap.
Now Finn is on his way back to Blighty to "work on technical aspects of his game". The 24-year-old Middlesex paceman was the only member of the 17-man Test squad not to win a cap in the 5-0 Ashes series whitewash, although he did take 11 wickets in two midweek tour matches in Australia. But his economy rate of 4.44 was deemed too high for Test match cricket by the England selectors and Finn sat out the series. Instead they selected Chris Tremlett and Boyd Rankin for a Test match apiece, the pair taking five wickets between them and conceding over 200 runs.
Telling reporters that Finn was heading home "for his own good", England one-day coach Ashley Giles added: "In the short term he needs a couple of weeks away... Steven is not selectable at the moment."
Pressed for more details on why a third member of the tour party was leaving Australia, Giles replied: "Mentally there's no problem but it does wear you down. Sometimes through your career you go through those ups and downs and his timing is out. That then can affect your confidence and certainly it is not coming out as quickly as he would like."
The surprise announcement raises further questions about the selection process of the original tour party. Giles admitted that Finn "has been in this state for at least a couple of months and it hasn't worked... we feel now that it is best to take him out of it".
If true, then should Finn have been selected for the tour? Similar question have been asked about Trott, whose stress-related illness was "long-standing", and Swann, who in announcing his retirement claimed "my body doesn't like playing five-day cricket any more".