Slow bowlers heed bat­ting les­son from hosts

Eng­land’s spin­ners, now in­clud­ing Daw­son, have taken the fight to In­dia,

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FIFTH TEST - writes Scyld Berry

E ng­land are learn­ing. In­dia’s spin­ners shaped this se­ries with the bat as much as the ball: first, it was the sen­si­ble runs of Ravi Ash­win, then the 90 by Ravi Jadeja in the third Test and the cen­tury by Jayant Ya­dav in the fourth which were the killer blows. In this Test, how­ever, Eng­land’s three spin­ners have trumped In­dia’s by scor­ing 272 runs.

Moeen Ali’s 146 looked as lan­guorous as the heat of the trop­ics. In­dia’s bowlers were then worn into Ash­win’s home ground by Liam Daw­son and Adil Rashid in Eng­land’s first cen­tury part­ner­ship for the eighth wicket in In­dia. Be­tween the three of them, Eng­land’s spin­ners raised Eng­land’s self-re­spect and the spec­tre of In­dia’s first de­feat not only in this se­ries but the cal­en­dar year.

Moeen had reached 100, and Rashid 50, in Tests be­fore. Daw­son on his de­but bat­tled for al­most four hours to con­trib­ute an un­beaten 66. He be­came the third Eng­land player to reach 50 on his Test de­but in this se­ries af­ter Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jen­nings, which speaks well of the stan­dard of county cricket and the Eng­land Lions coach­ing.

A fea­ture of this Test, which Eng­land will want to con­tinue, has been that the first hour is most dif­fi­cult for bat­ting: they lost two wick­ets and saw Moeen dropped in the open­ing hour on day one, when the pitch was damp af­ter Cy­clone Var­dah, and lost three more wick­ets in the first hour of day two.

At 321 for seven, Eng­land’s to­tal, and se­ries, would have pe­tered out but for Daw­son’s de­ter­mi­na­tion. Trial by bouncer is the ini­ti­a­tion rite for most debu­tants in Test cricket, but not in In­dia in times past. In­dia are now No 1 be­cause they have an in­ci­sive pace at­tack as well as spin­ners who bat, and their open­ing pair of Umesh Ya­dav and Ishant Sharma un­der­took Daw­son’s ini­ti­a­tion with a will, Ishant hit­ting him on the hel­met sec­ond ball.

A bouncer bar­rage of three in a row was too much for Moeen, who was hit by the first two from Umesh – chest and armpit – and pad­dled the third to deep­ish square leg. Daw­son, un­daunted, ducked un­til he felt es­tab­lished af­ter tea. He has long been a bats­man who bowls, and it is not his fault that the stan­dard of English lef­t­arm spin is so low that he has been re­cast here as a bowler who bats. As a right-handed bats­man, with a dom­i­nant bot­tom hand, he is a fine cut­ter and reached his fifty in fewer balls, 121, than Rashid.

It was a lit­tle late for Daw­son to make the best com­pos­ite XI for this se­ries, but Umesh made a late chal­lenge by dis­miss­ing Moeen and Rashid. Not only Eng­land fast bowlers have been min­ers: so was Umesh, who has kept bound­ing in, al­though he does not have the wick­ets to show for his ef­forts.

Vi­jay and Hameed, now in­jured, to open, with Chetesh­war Pu­jara at three, Joe Root and Vi­rat Kohli would be the spe­cial­ist bats­men and Jonny Bairstow the wick­et­keeper at six. Rashid has taken more than twice as many wick­ets, 22, as the next Eng­land bowler and de­serves to part­ner In­dia’s two main spin­ners, Ash­win and Jadeja. The two pace bowlers would be Mo­ham­mad Shami, the best on ei­ther side, and Umesh or Stuart Broad.

If this Test has been less colour­ful than the pre­vi­ous ones, it is partly be­cause the pitch has been slow af­ter the cy­clone, partly be­cause the out­come of this se­ries has been de­cided, and partly be­cause the ground­staff, while ef­fi­cient in mop­ping up af­ter the storm, have been sar­to­ri­ally drab­ber. At the first two Test venues the ma­jor­ity were fe­male.

Car­ry­ing tar­pau­lins on your head, and sweep­ing pitches in bare feet, may not ac­cord with some def­i­ni­tions of equal rights but the 13 full-time fe­male mem­bers of the Ra­jkot ground­staff, when in­ter­viewed by The Sun­day Tele­graph with a trans­la­tor, were vis­i­bly de­lighted with their job. One had been a groundswoman for 30 years. They all had a sil­ver nose-ring and an­klets, as it is the tra­di­tional cus­tom to wear one’s sav­ings in the form of jew­ellery rather than stick­ing them in a bank ac­count – this wis­dom man­i­fest when the In­dian gov­ern­ment de­mon­e­tised all 500 and 1,000-ru­pee notes in Novem­ber.

These women in Ra­jkot are paid a monthly salary of 9,600 ru­pees, or roughly £120, above the lo­cal av­er­age wage – so it could be ar­gued the wealth of In­dian cricket fil­ters down. Those at the sec­ond Test venue of Visakha­p­at­nam earn 6,000 ru­pees per month, but are given a sari of dif­fer­ent colour each day of the Test, or­ange the most strik­ing.

In this state of Andhra Pradesh, where many men work in the Gulf, most con­struc­tion work is done by women.

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