By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) Touring England spinners’ failure to take a single wicket in hosts Sri Lankan first innings of the ongoing second Test in Galle, has put a question mark on their ability to perform in India when their four-Test tour begins early next month.
While both off-spinner Dom Bess and left-arm spinner Jack Leach shared 14 wickets in England’s first Test win over Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka batsmen’s ability to play them out and score 381 in first innings of the second Test may worry the English team management on the sudden ineffectiveness of their spin bowlers. England had to rely on Anderson, who picked six wickets, and Chris Woakes, who got three, to bowl out Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The last time England toured India, the performance of the spinners was the major difference as India romped to a 4-0 win in the five-Test series.
While the Indian spinners took 68 wickets at an average of 30.35, their English counterparts took 40 at 48.1.
England are travelling with three spinners to India and barring Moeen Ali, none of Bess or Leach have toured India before.
Even Ali, despite his success against India in England, failed to get wickets the last time England toured India in 2016-17. He managed just 10 wickets in five Test matches at an average of 64.9.
Former India spinner Maninder Singh says he is not sure England spinners would be successful in India.
“I have my doubts [they will trouble India batsmen]. The English spinners are not used to bowling on the surfaces you get here. They are used to bowling on good wickets. Bowling on turning pitches requires some different skills and is also an art,” Maninder, who played 35 Test matches through 1980s and 1990s, told IANS.
“The lengths and lines of spinners on Indian surfaces are different from those on good pitches. And adapting is not easy,” said the former left-arm spinner.
India and England play the first two matches in Chennai and the next two in Ahmedabad. The weather is likely be hot in India and that could result in dry wickets, with not much help in the air. England spinners, who tend get natural drift or movement when bowling in England due to the cooler and wetter weather at home, will have to adapt and bowl lines and lengths different from what they do at home.
“For example, for a left-arm spinner, on good wickets your line will be off-stump. On turning tracks, the line would be leg-stump. Also, on turning tracks you have to bowl up. On good wickets like in England, if you bowl up you’ll get smashed for four. So, you have to go further down from full on those wickets,” Maninder explained the adjustments the English spinners may have to make in India.
Both Bess and Leach have played 12 Tests each, with Leach taking 40 wickets and Bess 27.
Ali, who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in Sri Lanka, missed the first Test since he was in quarantine. He was not picked for the second Test as England went in with the squad that won the first Test.
But with the limited experience in spin bowling, England may have to rely on his experience of 60 Tests in which he has picked 181 wickets.