England demonstrated in the drawn Test series in Bangladesh that its batsmen struggle against spin in the subcontinent and its bowling department lacks a top-class slow bowler.
That’s a major worry for the English considering their next assignment: A five-Test series against top-ranked India – in India.
England slumped from 100-0 to 164 all out in just 22.5 overs after tea to lose the second Test in embarrassing fashion in Dhaka on Sunday. All 10 wickets fell to spinners as Bangladesh beat England in a Test match for the first time.
The way offspinner Mehedi Hasan and left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan ripped through England’s fragile batting lineup isn’t a good omen before a trip to India, which boasts the top-ranked Test bowler in off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and another top spinner in Ravindra Jadeja.
Some British bookmakers are offering odds of 7-2 on an Indian whitewash when the series starts on Nov. 9 in Rajkot.
“It’s going to be difficult, that’s for sure,” England coach Trevor Bayliss said. “We’re going to have to play some very good cricket but we’ve got that in us.
“We’ve shown in previous series we’ve been able to come back after losses and win. We’ve got to dig deep and be able to play a very good team playing in their home conditions.”
As much of a worry for Bayliss and captain Alastair Cook are the spinner options available to England.
Zafar Ansari is fresh off his first Test appearance and it was a fairly chastening experience for the left-armer, who opened the bowling in the first innings and didn’t return after a wicketless six-over spell.
The 39-year-old Gareth Batty was brought back into the international fold after an 11-year absence, playing only one of the two Tests in Bangladesh. Adil Rashid has been in and out of the England side and lacked consistency, although his confidence will be boosted by taking four wickets in Bangladesh’s second innings in the second Test.
Certainly none of them are in the league of Ashwin or even Jadeja, and England is yet to find an adequate replacement for Graeme Swann since his sudden retirement during the 2013-14 Ashes series.
Among the changes being considered by England will be dropping Gary Ballance after four single-figure scores against Bangladesh and recalling wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, which would free Jonny Bairstow of the gloves and allow him to move up the batting order. It would also reduce the number of left-handers facing Ashwin.
Ballance was retained despite averaging less than 30 in four Tests against Pakistan last summer but didn’t justify the selectors’ faith.
“Maybe we showed our inexperience, in one sense, in subcontinent conditions in terms of batting,” Cook said. “I was just looking around the dressing room at how much cricket people have played in the subcontinent and it is not a huge amount.
“This is when we need to really stay strong as a group,” Cook added. “Stuff like this happens, especially away from home. When you’re at home, you can get away from it for a couple of days. But we haven’t got that luxury.”