Test-best fig­ures for the York­shire spin­ner un­der­lines his tal­ent

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Chris Wa­ters ■ Email: chris.wa­[email protected]­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @CWater­sYPS­port

IF ENG­LAND go on to win the third and fi­nal Test match against Sri Lanka in Colombo, which they surely must af­ter the hosts ended day three on 53-4 in pur­suit of 327, they will owe much to York­shire’s Adil Rashid.

The leg-spin­ner turned the game – and the ball a prodi­gious amount – to trig­ger a dra­matic col­lapse in the Sri Lanka first in­nings af­ter an­other York­shire­man, Jonny Bairstow, scored a hun­dred on the open­ing day.

Rashid’s best Test fig­ures of 5-49, as Sri Lanka col­lapsed from 173-1 to 240 all-out in re­ply to 336, to go with use­ful con­tri­bu­tions of 21 not out in the first in­nings and 24 in Eng­land’s sec­ond in­nings 230 yes­ter­day, em­pha­sised his value to the Eng­land side.

It is a value that has not been suf­fi­ciently ap­pre­ci­ated down the years, to the ex­tent that Rashid has played only 18 Tests as he ap­proaches his 31st birth­day.

The fal­lacy of his treat­ment must, in part, have con­trib­uted to Rashid’s de­ci­sion to quit red­ball cricket last Fe­bru­ary, only for Eng­land – and the player – to come to their senses.

Rashid was re­called for the Test se­ries against In­dia last Au­gust – re­mark­ably, his first Tests on English soil – and has since taken 22 wick­ets at 26.09, a pretty handy re­turn for a man who had not bowled with a red ball for al­most a year. In one-day cricket, he has cer­tainly been val­ued by Eng­land, be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of their white-ball side.

But they have been re­luc­tant – scared, even – of show­ing faith in him in the five-day arena, one in which their at­ti­tude now seems to be shift­ing as they be­come more ag­gres­sive per se in their gen­eral ap­proach.

That Rashid’s five-fer rep­re­sented the best Test fig­ures by an English leg-spin­ner for al­most 60 years – since Tommy Green­hough’s 5-35 against In­dia at Lord’s in 1959 – tells its own story.

This is not a coun­try that has pro­duced too many top-class legspin bowlers and, even when it has done, has rarely seemed to know what to do with them or how to get the best out of them.

If Rashid was Aus­tralian, for ex­am­ple, it is in­con­ceiv­able that he would not have won many more Test caps.

But Eng­land have long been ob­sessed with spin­ners who can keep it tight, who can keep down the runs and bowl dots, as op­posed to out-and-out wick­et­tak­ers like Rashid who are li­able to have their way­ward days.

As such, Rashid has be­come one of cricket’s wasted tal­ents, a story of what might have been as much as what could yet be in the com­ing years.

Granted, he is not with­out his faults as an all-round pack­age e, while the saga sur­round­ing his de­ci­sion to quit red-ball – and his sub­se­quent U-turn – re­flected well on nei­ther him, , his county nor his coun­try.

But he is “a con­fi­dence player”, as the old say­ing goes, as frag­ile at times as a leaf in the wind, and the lack of con­fi­dence that Eng­land have shown in him has done noth­ing to fos­ter his be­lief in him­self. The fact that he is presently pros­per­ing in a three-man spin at­tack be­hind d Moeen Ali and Jack Leach is per­haps a safety blan­ket that he is not too dis­ap­pointed to have draped around his shoul­ders; it also gives him an ex­tra li­cence to at­tack.

But will he be play­ing in the Ashes se­ries next year?

That, as they say, is the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion.

In more seamer-friendly con­di­tions, Eng­land may only go with one spin­ner – Moeen, with Rashid per­ceived as a lux­ury item, the crick­et­ing equiv­a­lent of a yacht, per­haps, or an in­door swim­ming pool.

Yet what tal­ent he has with bat and ball.

De­spite be­ing recog­nised, first and fore­most, as a bowler, Rashid’s first-class bat­ting av­er­age of 32 is only five be­hind Moeen’s 37.

He has 10 first-class hun­dreds and 37 fifties.

He also has more than 500 first-class wick­ets to his name – over 150 more than fel­low spin­ner Moeen.

It is too late now to turn back the clock, too late to pick Rashid for Test matches long since con­signed to the pages of his­tory.

But Eng­land could still get an­other five pro­duc­tive years out of him at Test level if they are smart enough to give him his head.

With his eclec­tic mix­ture of leg-breaks and googlies, Rashid is just j the sort of weapon who co ould help Eng­land in their bi id to be­come world No 1.

He flipped the third Test on n its head in the blink of an n eye just when it seemed as s though Eng­land might su uf­fer de­feat.

Not so now as the tourists st and on the brink of co om­plet­ing a com­fort­able wh hite­wash.

On an­other er­ror-strewn da ay, both in terms of the cr icket and some hap­less um mpir­ing, Sri Lanka showed jus st how tooth­less they are in the post Jayawar­dene/ Sa an­gakkara/Herath era.

Bar­ring rain and/or som me­thing truly re­mark­able, the e se­ries will fin­ish to­day in vic ctory for Joe Root’s men.

That will be a feather in the e cap for all con­cerned – not t least the oft-crim­i­nally ove er­looked Rashid.

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