Ex­clud­ing Laker and Swann, just when have our spin­ners shone?

The ed­i­tor of Cricket Statis­ti­cian analy­ses re­cent events

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE - SI­MON SWEETMAN

Fig­ures of 23 wick­ets at 37.43 and 10 at 64.90 re­spec­tively in the Tests against In­dia for Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have raised again the cry:Where have the English spin­ners gone?

The main thing we all re­mem­bered here is how, in 2012/13 in In­dia, Graeme Swann and Monty Pane­sar out­bowled the In­di­ans, Swann 20 at 24.75, Pane­sar 17 at 26.82.We might also re­mem­ber that Pane­sar had not been not picked for the first Test, where Samit Pa­tel took 1-135 and Eng­land re­alised they needed Monty.

It was an in­di­ca­tion of the dis­trust that re­cent English cap­tains have felt about slow bowlers.

Spin­ners baf­fled Eng­land at home from the South African goo­gly bowlers in 1906 up to Shane Warne by way of Bill O’Reilly, Lance Gibbs and Bhag­wath Chan­drasekhar. But just how good, his­tor­i­cally, is the Eng­land record for spin­ners abroad?

If you look at the list of bowlers with most Test wick­ets, the first English bowler is Jimmy An­der­son in sixth place. The first English spin­ner is Swann, with 255, fol­lowed by Jim Laker on 193.

But Swann was a quite ex­cep­tional bowler, bet­ter per­haps than we all re­alised, ca­pa­ble of tak­ing wick­ets any­where, though his record in Aus­tralia was not quite so good.

It would prob­a­bly be true to say that no English spin­ner in the years be­tween Laker and Swann has had a sig­nif­i­cant and con­tin­u­ing in­flu­ence: and even Laker rarely achieved much suc­cess over­seas. His best sea­son was his last in Aus­tralia in 1958/59.

But Eng­land had been blown away by pace then and im­me­di­ately de­cided that was the way to go, pick­ing and dis­card­ing spin­ners at will and play­ing three off-spin­ners in five Tests in 1959 (John Mor­ti­more, Ray Illing­worth, Mar­tin Hor­ton).

The cur­rent plan still seems to see Moeen as Eng­land’s No.1 spin­ner. In the Emi­rates against Pak­istan last year, Moeen took 9 wick­ets at 48.66. In South Africa 10 at 48.5. In April 2015, in three Tests in the West In­dies 6 wick­ets at 34.6.

Moeen’s bat­ting gives him a sec­ond string, but his record as first spin­ner is not in­spir­ing.

There is a vi­cious cir­cle here. Early sea­son English wick­ets do not help spin­ners, so they don’t get picked or don’t bowl much. Cap­tains learn again to rely on their quick bowlers, the spin­ners don’t get enough work and so are un­re­li­able.

They get most of their bowl­ing later in the sea­son on flat, slow­ish tracks and don’t get wick­ets or keep the runs down so the cap­tain turns back to his medium pac­ers to keep things quiet.

In­creas­ingly in Eng­land it looks as though spin­ners are kept for the T20, where they can be ef­fec­tive against bats­men chanc­ing their arms.

But, his­tory tells us, English spin­ners do not win Test se­ries.

In­flu­en­tial: Graeme Swann took 255 Test wick­ets

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