English spinners don't practise enough - Patel
Middlesex 207 (Dexter 53, Patel 5-59) and 173 for 6 (Dexter 43) drew with Warwickshire 254 (Ambrose 89, Murtagh 4-55)
After taking eight wickets in the draw with Middlesex, Jeetan Patel now needs only two more to reach 50 first-class scalps in four consecutive English summers.
Patel is an admirable cricketer, varying his pace, flight and delivery point on the crease and unerring in his accuracy. Still, for English cricket it is also a little uncomfortable that the most proficient spinner in the county game today is a 35-year-old New Zealander who averaged 48.46 in his 19 Tests.
To Patel, there is no great secret. He speaks like an evangelist of Matthew Syed's theory that success in sport and beyond is built less on raw talent than upon ten thousand hours of purposeful practice.
"I don't think spinners do enough in the UK. They need to practise a lot more," Patel said. "If you talk to our guys they notice that I do a lot of work. I am sore and I am tired but I know that I have to bowl 30 overs in an innings. The only way to practise bowling 30 overs in an innings is to bowl 30 overs throughout several days, and make sure you get your numbers up and then you start to realise what you can and can't do.
"In this game for example I felt like I bowled at least an hour more than Ollie Rayner outside play. That may just be what I do, and it may be harsh for me to say that about someone else but the reality is the more you do the better you get.
"You've got to know what your stock ball is. It's great to have all these variations and be able to beat the bat. If you don't know your stock ball then what's the point? What's the ball that you know you can bowl best and when it comes out is perfect? That's when it comes back to practice."
It is often claimed that English spinners are hampered by a schedule in which the vast majority of Championship fixtures take place in April, May or September, but Patel has shown that this apparent obstacle can be overcome.
"They need to be more specific with their training - it's very easy to say that it's green and therefore it won't spin but you've got to find a way to succeed in the game.
"To say that we play too much in April and May? Well too bad, just get on with it. It's just what it is. If you want to succeed, want to be good and get to the next level, then you've got to find ways to do that, whether it's getting bounce, drift, spin - whatever it is you've got to find a way to do that."
Patel has seen encouraging signs in Moeen Ali, who played every Test this summer, but believes he lacks self-belief.
"He's certainly got some tools. He probably battles himself a bit, fights with himself a bit to believe in the skill he's got. Again I don't think he's bowling enough overs - that's the whole crux of it," Patel said. "It's a shame that he has to compete with Saeed Ajmal for overs at Worcestershire."
Patel's overall assessment of the state of English spin bowling was not overly negative. "It's okay. It's at a point where it's starting to get better, and I think that's purely because the numbers of spinners is higher."
He picked out Lancashire's Arron Lilley, Ravi Patel and Rayner at Middlesex and Adil Rashid as sources of hope, even if Patel is unsure of how he will fit into England's Test attack.
"He's got some great skills and he bowls very well for Yorkshire at this level, but can he transfer that to Test level and accept that guys will pounce quicker than they do at first-class level?
"You can pick a bowler and say yeah he's got the tools, but does he complement the side? Does a leggie who's going to go at three and a half, four an over complement the English attack at the moment? I don't know because Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn are great bowlers but they could also go at threes and fours as well."
While Patel bowled with craft once again on the final day against Middlesex, and Keith Barker claimed both openers in a venomous opening spell, Warwickshire always seemed to lack the requisite time to force a result. They were not aided, either, by their curiously anaemic approach to batting in the morning: Warwickshire added just 30 in 14.2 overs in the morning; while they claimed a second batting point, they took copious time out of the game.
The sight of Ian Westwood bowling his rarely sighted offbreaks - plenty of loop, not much turn - was an unbecoming end to three often absorbing days of Division One cricket. So was that of Barker, who had bowled with verve, resorting to left-arm spin.
"It would have been nice to play that extra day and interesting to see where the game was at after that," Patel reflected as he nursed a beer after play. It was well deserved after all the hard work.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts