19 November 2012

England's spinning failures cost them opening Test

Five days ago England went into the first Test match against India full of hope that they had left their problems with spin in the UAE last winter. Those hopes were crushed by a ruthless Indian side who cruised to a nine-wicket victory.

On a dry surface in Ahmedabad England's top order were skittled out as England fell to 97-7, just hours after the hosts had amassed 521-8 declared. Numbers two to seven (excluding night-watchman James Anderson) scored only 36 runs between them with Kevin Pietersen's desperate 17 the best. 

The second innings was not much better, as apart from Nick Compton's 37, the highest score between those same five players was Ian Bell's 22. 

                                                                                                   Test averages:   In UAE and India 2012    Overall
Jonathan Trott:                 22.25                      48.96
Kevin Pietersen:               10.75                      48.93
Ian Bell:                    9.13                      46.24
 Eoin Morgan:                  13.66                      30.43
         Matt Prior:                  48.17                      43.33
Alastair Cook:                 47.00                      48.71

As you can see by the table above, the majority of England's current batsmen have found life much harder on the sub-continent than they do in other places across the world. 

It is hard to pin-point why, although it could be due to a lack of quality spinners/spinning pitches in county cricket. Although this is the case in some circumstances bowlers like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar have proven that spin-bowling is a big part of the English game. 

The Indian spinners, and the Pakistani attack last year, appear to have got themselves into the English batsmen's heads. (Just look at Ian Bell's shot in the first innings of this match for an example.) With the exceptions of Cook and Prior England's top order looked unsure of what tempo to play, especially Bell and Pietersen.

A big problem for the tourists is that they do not have any great players of spin for the others to learn from. Prior is probably the best player of the turning ball while Pietersen and Cook are both capable of scoring big runs, although that is more down to their natural batting talents rather than a specific ability against the slower bowlers. 

Cook showed great defiance, while Prior applied himself well in both innings. Pietersen played horrific shots  to get out in two uncertain spells at the crease, while Bell looked close to clueless. 

With Bell going home to attend the birth of his baby England will need to find a replacement, and that person may just be Jonny Bairstow; the young man who scored two fifties in the final Test against world number one side South Africa in the summer. 

His youthful exuberance and raw talent may be exactly what England need to bring a breath of fresh air into the batting line-up, as well as make the other batsmen feel under a bit more pressure for their places. 

England's other spinning mistake in this match was the failure to pick a second specialist spinner, which probably would have been Monty Panesar. 

The turban-wearing left-armer played very well in the Test matches last winter and also looked good in the games leading up to this series. England clearly did not need three seamers on such a slow, low surface, one on which Panesar could have thrived.

Swann bowled well and was the only bright spot of an England bowling attack that faltered in the Indian heat. Samit Patel proved that he is far from good enough to play as a second spinner with match figures of 1-120 in 36 overs, while Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad were distinctly innocuous in their combined 43 wicket-less overs. 

Andy Flower's men must bounce back in Mumbai where a loss would all but seal consecutive series defeats. 

In order to do so the top order must apply themselves better against the likes of Ashwin and Ojha, while Panesar and Swann have to prove that England have their own destructive twin spin attack. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! I should be covering the second Test as well :)