S.N. Don's blog

The Dearth of the English Spinner

So we come to the end of the Test series with Bangladesh which, once again, exposed our weakness of facing quality spin bowling. Yet, faced with turning pitches we were unable to extract a similar amount of fear when our spinners had the cherry in their hands. This got me thinking about whatever happened to spin bowling in England and the county game.

I am certainly not getting on the backs of Moeen Ali, Gareth Batty etc, and certainly not going to look at one of the longest spells between test match appearances.

Were England fortunate to have the skills of Graeme Swann to call upon? Certainly, in my eyes, the best spinner produced in this country since the days of the spin twins Edmonds and Emburey at Middlesex throughout the 1980s. Prior to these two we had Geoff Miller and Peter Willey and preceding them was one of the very best in Derek Underwood. But what happened in between?

Never having been a slow bowler, I always found theirs was one of the darkest of arts. The sleight of hand; the arm ball; incredible amounts of drift. Undoubtedly, the wickets are much more to the liking of the batsmen and not just because of the end of uncovered wickets which is a good thing. Science and technology have also played a significant role as well with the repair and preparation of wickets. Bat technology has also improved immeasurably with thick edges regularly seen to smite the ball way into the crowd over cow corner. English weather conditions have not helped either as a typical summer will see overcast skies and reasonably warm temperatures that always seems to give greater credence to the boring medium paced trundler like Ravi Bopara or Ronnie Irani to bowl it nice and tight, just back of a length.

The blame, in my eyes, lies with a beach bum from St. Kilda near Melbourne. S.K Warne destroyed the English spinner. No way on earth were there ever going to be wickets prepared for a test series against the old enemy. Not that it would have mattered as I am certain that he could have turned a ball at right angles on a pane of glass. He was that good. We had a leg spinner you know. Ian Salisbury. I wonder what happened to him. But with all leggies with that one hideous exception, they do have the misfortune to bowl too many long hops of full tosses on leg stump. But if Warne was so good, why was his record in India so poor in comparison with the rest of his record? Undoubtedly, the pitches were prepared to nullify his strengths. There was very little pace so the likes of Lee, McGrath and Gillespie would not have profited much either. Plus, India did have an awesome batting line up – as did Australia.

For me, there is nothing quite like seeing a pace bowler on the top of his game bowling at a searing pace to test the resolve, mentality and technique of a top order batsman. Just as much as there is something beautifully anarchic in seeing a quality finger or wrist spinner teasing and tantalising a middle order stroke player with his guile, wizardry and sleight of hand. Sadly, quality spinners in the English game are a very rare breed and need to be given every opportunity to play their part. And not as a perpetual tourist destined to be a drinks and message deliverer.

S.N. Don

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