Steve Finn staked his claim to play in England`s opening Test against South Africa in Durban by taking four wickets on day one of the tourists` warm-up clash with South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg.
Finn, bowling for England`s senior side for the first time since fracturing his foot in October, seized figures of 4-34 from 12 overs to best left-armer Mark Footitt (1-32) in the battle for a place alongside James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes in Alastair Cook`s pace attack on Boxing Day.
"It was nice to get some overs under my belt," said Finn, who flew out to join his England colleagues on Monday having been left out of the initial 16-man squad due to his injury.
"I`d like to think I`m ready for a Test match, but it depends how I pull up over the next day or so because I haven`t spent this long on my feet for the last couple of months.
"I was disappointed to be left out of the squad in the first place because I know my body and thought I had very good chance to be fit for Boxing Day," added Finn, who has been building up his fitness at Watford Football Club.
"The selectors obviously didn`t think that but it made me work doubly hard and I hope I have bowled enough overs and bowled well enough to push for Test selection."
Anderson sat out proceedings ahead of the first Test but England did not miss him as they dismissed a South Africa A outfit captained by Dane Vilas, the Proteas` wicketkeeper during their recent series defeat in India, and featuring Test hopeful Rilee Rossouw for 136 shortly after tea.
Alex Hales (28no) then notched some confidence-boosting runs after two scores of eight in England`s opening warm-up during the week, with Cook unbeaten on 36 as the visitors reached 64-0 before bad light ended play.
Footitt and Broad (1-18) forced Reeza Hendricks (13) and Rossouw (six) respectively to snick through to Jonny Bairstow after Cook won the toss, with Finn then having Quinton de Kock (four) snaffled sharply at third slip by Hales from the third ball of his opening spell.
Finn - who began his comeback from injury by bowling in two games of England Lions` recent T20I series with Pakistan A in the UAE - took two scalps in two balls after lunch, with Joe Root and James Taylor swallowing catches, before he pinned Vilas lbw for four in his following over.
Stokes` three-for and a run out by Hales concluded South Africa`s innings in exactly 56 overs, with Moeen Ali (0-26) the only England bowler to emerge wicketless after Stokes (3-25) dropped opener and top scorer Stephen Cook (53no) off the spinner on 41.
Stephen Cook passed 11,000 first-class runs while carrying his bat and his namesake, Alastair, looked in fine fettle, too, stroking six boundaries during England`s 20 overs prior to stumps, with Hales contributing five of his own.
The tourists had earlier retained Nick Compton at No 3 ahead of Gary Ballance, with Bairstow once again given the nod over Jos Buttler behind the stumps and Footitt preferred to fellow paceman Chris Woakes.
Watch England`s four-Test series in South Africa live on Sky Sports, starting with the opening game, in Durban, from 7.30am on Boxing Day.
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