Legspin and England

English: Adil Rashid bowling for Yorkshire aga...
English: Adil Rashid bowling for Yorkshire against Somerset at the County Ground, Taunton during Day 3 of a County Championship match. Image sharpened using Paint Shop Pro 7. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just been reading about the England vs Pakistan series and the exciting sight of a leg spinner on each side. Yes, an English leg spinner! A sight as rare as a Posh Spice smile.

Of all the countries that play cricket only three really understand it. All three have had legendary legspinners. Australia has truly made legspin the art it should be. India and Pakistan are the only other country to have sported a few good ones, Qadir the loopy windmill, Mushtaq and Kaneria for Pakistan and Kumble, Chandrasekhar, Gupte for India. Even Shahid Afridi is a better legspinner than he’s given credit for.

South Africa haven’t seen too many spinners, since the quartet of Vogler, Faulkner, Schwarz and White ages ago. New Zealand have always relied on an assortment of Dibbly, Dobbly, Wibbly and Wobbly and really haven’t seen too many spinners. The West Indies didn’t need spinners, after Gibbs retired, a generation after Ramadhin and Valentine. A West Indian spin bowler somehow just feels wrong…..

The SriLankans prefer off spin or tricky finger spinners. The Bangladeshis and the English believe in left armers. I suspect the English thinking is that left armers turn the ball the away from the righthander just like legspinners do but since they rely on the fingers rather than the wrist they offer far more control. Which they do. Unfortunately. For in the modern era of limited overs cricket, economy rates matter.

But Australia has always had a legspinner or two hanging around in the attack. And they haven’t been part timers, either. O’Reilly, Grimmett, Mailey, Benaud, Higgs, Warne, Macgill; these are names to fear, to respect. These are names that have led the bowling attack. They haven’t been afterthoughts, nor are they “allrounders” expected to bowl a few overs to offer respite to the fast bowlers. Of course, Benaud was a pretty handy batsman and Warne wasn’t a slouch either, but these were bowlers who were expected to take wickets.

The last English legspinner of any skill was Doug Wright and he played his last Test in 1951. In fact, Robin Hobbs played his last Test in 1971 and then there were no legspinners until Ian Salisbury. Since Salisbury, England have managed without, except for misguided and badly handled one-offs. Anyone remember Scott Borthwick? England remain suspicious about legspin.

I remained suspicious about England ever allowing Adil Rashid to actually play in a Test match. His expensive first outing should have sealed his fate, indeed would have sealed his fate in any other England team. However, England’s coach is Australian and Rashid picked up 5 wickets in the second innings as England narrowly failed to win a match heading inexorably towards a draw. ( Digression Alert #1: Why “inexorably” always? )

In the second Test match, Rashid got all of 2 wickets for 191 runs. He played a horrible shot in the first innings to score 0 and a horrible shot in the second innings to cost England the game, that was heading not so inexorably towards a draw.

So what conclusions can we draw from this?

  1. Moeen  Ali will remain England’s #1 spinner.
  2. Once Moeen drops down the order for the Third Test ( where he belongs ), Adil Rashid will have already played his last Test match for England.
  3. I could be deliciously wrong.
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