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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

India vs England: Odds stacked against spinners in Test series

The ongoing heatwave in England has led to talk of subcontinent-type wickets in the Test series and possibility of spinners holding sway with the fast bowlers.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Updated: July 30, 2018 11:45:44 am
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid will hold the key for England. (Express photo by Subham Dutta)

There’s been a lot of hype and expectation surrounding spin, and not swing, this time around in the lead-up to the England-India Test series. And it reached fever pitch with England’s shock selection of leg-spinner Adil Rashid. The ongoing heatwave has also led to talk of subcontinent-type wickets and the possibility of spinners holding sway with the fast bowlers. But for that, the likes of R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Rashid himself will have a lot of recent history to rewrite, or for that matter even match up to Moeen Ali’s singular feats in recent times.

Wrist spinners

41 wickets at 49.26; Best returns: Yasir Shah (19 wickets at 40.73), Imran Tahir (8 wickets at 47.25)

Wrist spinners have not had it easy on English soil, and they average nearly 50 runs per wicket since 2011. Yasir Shah’s performance in England is remembered mostly for his match-winning 10-wicket haul at Lord’s. But he managed only 9 wickets at 70.33 in the other 3 Tests. Imran Tahir played 3 Tests on the 2012 tour and his best performance was 3/63 at The Oval. That two leg-spinners’ strike-rates overall are 75.1 and 87.5 respectively tells you just how difficult the going’s been for wrist spin. The others including the likes of Devendra Bishoo, Amit Mishra and Shadab Khan have all struggled too. Gary Ballance and Dawid Malan have bowled 3 overs between them — the only overs of wrist spin for England in the last 7 years on home soil.

Overseas Finger spinners

98 wickets at 41.27, 0 five-wicket hauls; Nathan Lyon (25 wickets at 30.20), Keshav Maharaj (17 wickets at 30.35)

Nathan Lyon has been the most successful overseas spinner in this period and has taken 25 wickets at 30.20 in two Ashes visits. Keshav Maharaj had a decent tour last time around, snaring 17 wickets at 30.35. They are the only finger spinners — not factoring in R Ashwin who bowled only 35.3 overs for his 3 wickets in 2014 — to average below 40. The rest like Mark Craig, Rangana Herath and Roston Chase have played restrictive roles. Kane Williamson, by the way, has been the most effective finger spinner with 9 wickets at 18.55.

England Finger Spinners

159 wickets at 33.87, 7 five-wicket hauls, 2 10-wicket hauls; Moeen Ali (89 wickets at 33.47), Graeme Swann (59 wickets at 34.32)

These numbers are dominated by two finger spinners in Moeen Ali and Graeme Swann before him. Ali has by far been the most successful spinner on English wickets over a few decades and he’s struck at 52 balls a wicket. He emerged as England’s lead spinner on India’s last tour and has grown in stature since. Swann of course held sway before Ali and but for all his world-class qualities, took 16 balls more on an average to strike compared to his unlikely successor. Joe Root doesn’t have a bad record either with 10 wickets at 32.60. The left-arm spin likes of Liam Dawson, Dominic Bess and Simon Kerrigan simply make up the numbers.

Where Ali Dares:

Trent Bridge: Ali 8 wkts in 3 Tests @ 41.87, s/r 57
Rose Bowl: 8 wkts @ 16.12 in one match, 6/67 v India
The Oval: 9 wkts @ 35, s/r 46, 4/45 in 4 Tests
Lord’s: 23 wkts @ 33.47, s/r 56.3, 8 Tests
Edgbaston: 6 wkts at 43.50, s/r 67

Lord’s has consistently been Ali’s happiest hunting ground. He won England a famous Test against SA last year with a second-innings spell of 6/53. He also claimed 8 wickets at the Rose Bowl — against India in 2014. Lord’s has been the cheapest venue to take wickets for spinners in Tests. But even here, the 96 scalps in 14 Tests have come at 39.09 apiece. Edgbaston, where India start the series, is one venue you’re better of not being a spinner with only 23 wickets falling to spin in 5 Tests at 56.26. Trent Bridge and Oval, the other two venues for the India Tests, are marginally better.

Adil Rashid’s county record at Test grounds:

Rose Bowl: 18 wickets at 41.94, 1 5-wicket haul
The Oval: 13 wickets at 49.38, 4/105
Trent Bridge: 22 wickets at 19.31, 4/96
Lord’s: 10 wickets at 47.30, 5/78
Edgbaston: 11 wickets at 37.81

For all the hype and hoopla over his selection for the forthcoming India Test series, leg-spinner Adil Rashid’s last five-wicket haul on English soil with the red-ball came in 2014. He had middling seasons in 2015 and 2016 but struggled with 10 wickets at 50 apiece in 2017. Trent Bridge is the only one of five Test venues against India where he’s tasted some success for Yorkshire, having taken 22 wickets at 19.31. He’s done decently enough at the Rose Bowl in Southamption but struggled at The Oval, Lord’s and Edgbaston.

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