The ECB have come under heavy criticism in light of reports that young fast bowler Steven Finn has been put on a witness protection style programme in an extraordinary move in the lead up to this winter's Ashes series down-under. The saga started with news that Finn would not be playing in the one-day series over the next few months to instead undergo a strength and conditioning programme. There were rumbles that England did not want Australia to get a look at Finn before the Ashes, though it seemed plausible to explain Finn's absence with the fact that he had not featured in any one-day squads previously. However this assumption was turned on its head when rumours broke that Middlesex administrators had spent the entire morning erasing all evidence of Finn existing at the club, let alone playing for them at any point. When queried about this move, Middlesex captain Shaun Udal appeared to be part of the cover up too; "Finn? Never heard of him. Tall, young and lean you say? No, Middlesex CCC have always held the rule that only short, chubby ageing pros can play for us. Oh I think you have been mistaken, Mark Cosgrove plays for Glamorgan, not Middlesex. He must be the one you are after".
However, an insider leaked information on the plot, revealing that Finn had assumed a new name and has been shipped abroad to continue playing cricket away from the gaze of Cricket Australia. "They've gone absolutely flippin' mad, the ECB have" the insider told us. "The kid plays decently against a mediocre Bangladesh side and suddenly he's the next Larwood. They have completely jumped the gun and are nervous as anything, thinking the Aussies are spying on them - Giles Clarke nearly started a diplomatic incident this morning when he got the guy who delivers the post to Lord's arrested 'cos he looks a bit like Merv Hughes" The insider had heard reports that Finn, or Christophe le Canard, as he has been rumoured to have had his name changed to, is most likely to have been flown to Nepal to play in their domestic leagues until the autumn. The England team have denied that any person by the name of Finn ever played for them, whilst the Bangladeshis apparently accepted the news that a number of their batsmen had infact simply been given out by the umpires for ineptness during the recently concluded test series.
Though the ECB have maintained a cloak and dagger approach to the increasingly farcical situation, the Australians and in particular team captain Ricky Ponting seemed laid back about the news. "They can do whatever they like" Ponting told reporters "It's up to them how they deal with a bowler, I mean before the last Ashes series we stuck Mitch (Johnson) on a calendar, then had a great time teasing him about all the front page spreads of his fiance and mum arguing. Everyone's different. We'll keep an eye on this, of course, and I'm sure he'll turn up on our radar at some point". Ponting was also very candid about keeping a lookout for Monsieur le Canard, revealing the spy network he had set up to track England players. "Haydos (Matthew Hayden) has his academy in India, Lillee too, so any appearance in the Ranji Trophy won't go unnoticed. AB (Allan Border) is tracking the Highveld in South Africa so if Finn or whoever he is now tries to cross into Zimbabwe then he'll snare him (literally). Warnie has Nevada covered, for some reason, though I haven't heard from Big Merv (Hughes) since yesterday evening, he's in London."
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