English captain Alastair Cook is confident that his team’s “inexperienced” spinners will continue to trouble the highly rated Indian batting line-up in the second Test beginning on Thursday.
The English spin troika of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari, who are under the tutelage of Pakistani great Saqlain Mushtaq, outbowled their Indian counterparts in the drawn first Test in Rajkot.
“If you continue in that level like in Rajkot then there is no reason why we can’t put pressure on Indian batting with our spinners,” the English captain said on the eve of second Test.
“Unfortunately we didn’t quite get over the line but we start afresh 0-0 at the start of the second Test. And we are here to give India a run for their money.”
Showering praise on the spin trio, he said: “They bowled excellently as a group of three spinners. Everyone came to the party and they took a massive step forward from where they operated in Bangladesh.
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“They can take a lot from that, we as a side can take a lot from that performance and credit to Saqlain coming in and giving those guys confidence to go out and play. They are inexperienced in these conditions but they took a big step forward and it’s great to see that.”
Apart from the spin trio, the English have an edge with their bowling with a three-pronged pace attack in Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes.
“It’s great we have got that balance of seamers as well. Six bowlers in these conditions give me a lot of balance as captain. If there is a dodgy few overs, we can change it up. We are not relying on four bowlers. Everyone of those guys contributed and the challenge is now come and do it again.”
New Zealand were shot out for 79 at this same venue two weeks ago with spinners ruling the roost.
“I think judging on statistics here everyone is telling us the pitch will turn more and more as the game goes on so the toss is important but it does not guarantee anything.
“If we happen to lose the toss then it happens to be another challenge that we have to try and overcome. Certainly an advantage in these conditions to bat first. Hopefully Virat winning seven in a row, he’s got a few to lose,” Cook said in a lighter vein.
English pacer spearhead James Anderson is available for selection after recovering from a shoulder injury but it appeared unlikely that he would be named in the eleven.
Chris Woakes has a slight niggle but Cook said it is just a little wear and tear, which may mean Anderson may have to wait.
“That is the kind of the question we have got to ask ourselves. Jimmy has come over and done really well in the nets.
“Last time he bowled in a game was in August so we kind of weigh that up with a couple of guys who have been out here for seven weeks or so. Just now we are going in with a few heads with what we are going to do,” said Cook.
With four hundreds in two innings, England put up a solid show with the bat in Rajkot.
“The way we played was particularly pleasing over the five days we were really relentless with our game. Couple of dropped catches here and there but does happen in every game but apart from that we were excellent with the ball,” Cook added.
Cook was left surprised when asked about Australia’s current woes against South Africa in the context of Ashes.
“Whatever going on in Australia does not change my situation at all. For me to be talking about in Australia the day before we play a Test here after we have played so well in Rajkot is slightly surprising,” Cook said.
“I said that at the end of the series I’ll sit down with Straussy and talk about how I feel and what happens in Australia won’t have anything to do with that. We’re focusing on what we’ve got to do here. What has happened in Australia makes no difference to my captaincy.
“It was an outstanding performance from South Africa first and foremost. It was a brilliant team performance and it means we did something quite special when we went down there last winter and beat a similar team.”
The position of Australia coach Darren Lehmann is also appears to be under threat at a time when an Aussie, Trevor Bayliss, is coaching England.
“To ask about our coach who has been here a year and a half and has done great stuff… you’ll have to ask Trevor what happens if they come knocking but I think he’s pretty focused on what’s going on with us.”
Asked whether the turning Vizag pitch would scare them, he said: “It doesn’t scare us. What happened to New Zealand here in a one-day game has little relevance to how the Test with England will go.
“The toss is important but in Mumbai the last time we played here we lost the toss on a turning wicket and we outplayed India. So it is important but it doesn’t mean you can’t win the game if you lose it.
“If you go back to our last game in Rajkot our worst bit of the game was that first 25 minutes when we showed a bit of nerves. Everyone here says the toss is important but if we lose it it will just be another challenge we will have to overcome.’
Cook then defended England’s record against spin.
“As I kept saying in Bangladesh they were incredibly tough wickets to bat on. It doesn’t matter whether you’d played 130 Tests in Asia with a good record or your first game. It was incredibly tough for the top order with the same balls skidding and spinning.
“If you look at mine and Gary Ballance’s dismissals we both received exactly the same deliveries with exactly the same release out of the hand, a point of a mile difference. One hit leg stump and the other got caught at slip so that was the challenge facing us and I kept on saying how hard it was.
“It didn’t make us bad players of spin but what it did do was focus a real intensity in our training after those 10 wickets fell in a session. It kind of makes people not re-evaluate their game but really concentrate, particularly in those first 30 balls of your innings.
“We had a really good couple of days in Mumbai and when conditions were slightly more favourable for batting the hard work we’d put in paid off. I was really pleased how we batted in the last game and we have to do it again. People will have to step up and be prepared to put the hard yards in. Everyone starts on nought now.”