Old frailties bind England in a spin before Test series

Subhash Rajta

Ahmedabad, Nov. 10 -- A small detail would have made England a little anxious when they looked up their otherwise impressive scorecard after the first innings on the second day of their warm-up tie against Haryana on Friday.

What could possibly bother a team that had run up a massive 521 runs and, more importantly, all their batsmen had a good hit out in the middle.

Well, it's the usual suspect - spin. Out of the nine wickets they lost in the first innings (Kevin Pietersen had retired), eight fell to spinners - four to leg spinner Amit Mishra with rookie off-spinner Jayant Yadav also accounting for four.

It's not as if the spinners bowled a majority share of the overs and hence got so many wickets.

They just sent down 40 overs, which works out to one-third of the total overs bowled. So, to lose eight wickets in 40 overs to the spin duo, including one with just three first-class matches under his belt, is neither pretty nor encouraging for an international side.

And then nobody can tell what could have happened if Mishra had bowled as early on the first day as he did on Friday. Going by what happened on Friday - Haryana spinners wrapped up the remaining wickets just before lunch with the last five putting on just 14 runs. England might have struggled to put up that sort of total if Mishra had got into the act early on Thursday.

England's spin handicap manifested itself in bowling as well. Against a team who don't have any big name in batting and were bowled out for just 55 runs in a Ranji Trophy game against Vidarbha prior to this game, England's spinners, Monty Panesar and Samit Patel, failed to impress.

In the 26 overs the two spinners bowled between them, they managed just two wickets. In England's defence, it must be said their main spinner, Graeme Swann, has flown home to visit his infant daughter, who is unwell, and pacers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are not playing this game.

However, with a strong possibility of turners being rolled out for the Test series starting next week, Panesar and Patel would be required to do much better than just lend a helping hand to Swann.

The little known Haryana batsmen stood up to the challenge really well, finishing the day at 172 for four wickets in 61 overs.

After the spinners did their job, Sunny Singh, out for 55, and opener Rahul Dewan (77no) gave a good account of themselves for last year's Ranji semifinalists.

Minor controversy

England got a little upset when the match referee refused to allow them a substitute for wicket-keeper Matt Prior, who had an upset stomach.

The referee, B Raghunath, ruled that a substitute can't be allowed to keep wicket, and someone from the playing XI would need to take up the job if Prior was to be relieved.

Later, the referee, after reportedly checking with the BCCI, relented and 12th man Jonny Bairstow came in to replace Prior.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.