Morgan creates stage for Rashid to shine
Leg-spinner vindicates captain’s call to abandon tradition, writes Tim Wigmore at Edgbaston
From the bedlam at the start of the match, a sense of normality had taken hold. Australia’s fourth-wicket pair had added more than 100. Adil Rashid’s first four overs had gone for 29 runs, and Alex Carey was even reading his googly.
Conventional English cricket thinking would have had it that now was an opportune moment to whisk the leg-spinner out of the attack. The wonder of a bowling line-up in which Ben Stokes is the sixth bowler is that there is always room for manoeuvre. Now seemed like an opportune time to use it.
The idea of a leg-spinner being integral is antithetical to the traditions of English cricket. Only one English leg-spinner, Doug Wright, has ever taken 100 Test wickets, and his last Test was in 1951. In one-day internationals, England and leg-spinners went together like fish and red wine. As of the end of the 2015 World Cup, the most wickets taken aken by an England leg-spinner er in their entire ODI career was Ian Salisbury, with five in 1993-94.
It was in keeping g with these inglorious traditions ns that, after playing five ODIS in n 2009, Rashid was discarded for the he next six years. Changing the e way that England conceived of leg-spinners was at the core of Eoin oin Morgan’s idea for an England limitedovers reboot, reasoning ning that England needed to have more venom in the middle overs.
Rashid returned to a different set-up. In the first ODI against New ew Zealand at Edgbaston on four years ago, Rashid hid
immediately marked himself out as indispensable to the new ideology: he crunched his first ball for six, en route to hitting 69 that turbocharged England to their first total of 400. Then, four wickets showcased the value of leg-spin in ODI cricket, heightened by the age of batting gluttony. Bowling sides could no longer control batsmen in the middle overs; now, they had to dismiss them.
The profound difficulty of leg-spin bowling – the need to master flight, line, length and turn and control a myriad of different deliveries – means that vagaries of performance are inherent in the art. Morgan embraced the fact.
In the fourth game of that New Zealand series, Rashid conceded 30 in the 48th over of the innings. Yet he was still given the final over, which yielded just five runs, and England waltzed to their target of 350. This set the template for how Rashid has been used ever since.
No bowler in the world has taken more ODI wickets since the 2015 World Cup. Although he has not quite been at his best after a series of injections to his shoulder, Rashid has been retained throughout the World Cup.
Persevering with Rashid after four underwhelm underwhelming overs was simply a microco microcosm of Morgan’s handling of him over the previous four years. The second delivery of Rashid’s fifth ov over seemed an innocuous enou enough leg-break, but Carey’s flick pic picked out deep midwic midwicket. Four balls later, Rashid’s googly befu befuddled Marcus Stoin Stoinis. In one over of leg-spin leg-spin, Rashid had broken o open the game decisivel decisively, just as Morgan had envis envisaged four years ago. Wher Where England teams of World C Cups past have retreated in high-octane moments, Rash Rashid doubled down on the best of hi his method: all told, he bowled 11 googlies. goo
That he had the th elan to do so in his country’s most mo significant ODI game for 27 year years distilled the best of Morgan’s Engl England.
Decisive: Adil Rashid turned the game with h two wickets in an over er