England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Edgbaston June 6, 2012

Can Narine trick England?

England do not have a great record against spinners who are a bit different and are likely to face a new one in the final Test against West Indies
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No doubt all eyes will be on Sunil Narine at Edgbaston. The mystery spinner from Trinidad. The knuckle-ball wizard. The offspinner, whose hand batsmen have found hard to read. The man, who Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, feels has the expertise to tease and pose problems against England.

Equipped with strong wrists, a scrambled seam and smart brains Narine controlled Australia like marionettes during the one-day series in April, which West Indies drew 2-2. Last week he finished as second highest wicket-taker in the IPL, where he was also the most economical bowler and instrumental in Kolkata Knight Riders winning their maiden title. Narine turned 24 just ten days ago and on Thursday there is a strong possibility of him making his Test debut. Rarely have so many expectations in the Caribbean rested on someone so young.

Narine was drafted as a replacement for Kemar Roach, who was the ruled out of the series due to injury after the Trent Bridge Test. It was a curious inclusion in that Narine had decided to play in the IPL instead of making himself available for the Australia Test or England series. You can't blame him only because Narine still has no WICB contract and he will have wanted to safeguard his future by selling his wares in the best marketplace in cricket - the IPL.

But can West Indies really pin all your hopes on Narine? The pitches in England do not turn much. The conditions have been severely cold as Shane Shillingford, the other of spinner in the West Indies squad, experienced. He complained that he could not grip the ball firmly and would much rather sit out of the first Test at Lord's. When he did play in the second Test at Trent Bridge, Shillingford managed just one wicket, and finished as the most expensive bowler on both sides.

Sammy was therefore cautious about what to expect from him. "Everyone is calling him the mystery spinner and he could come in and make an impact for us," he said. "It's a difficult place for spinners to make their debut but he has a lot up his sleeve and we're backing him to make an impact."

"He has enough variations in flight, bounce and turn and he can pose problems to any batsman. Sunil is different. He has a wide array of balls. So far nobody has been able to pick him at least in Twenty20 cricket. So hopefully he can come in and make a big impact for us in this Test match."

If Narine stands up to the challenge, it will be an immense shot in the arm for both him and West Indies cricket. Most successful Test teams have had an effective slow bowler - one of the exceptions being the West Indies side of the 1980s and early 1990s - with the ability to play the dual role of being the sponge which can absorb pressure while turning into the impact player who is able to win matches by dominating batsmen mentally using various tricks from his bag.

Narine has not even played enough first-class matches to use up all the fingers on both hands. Yet with every match he has shown the aptitude to learn and an appetite to take wickets in big numbers. In his last first-class match, against Windward Islands, Narine bagged two five-wicket hauls for Trinidad and Tobago while opening the bowling. Sammy, leading Windward, remembered the match with an embarrassing smile; Narine removed the West Indies captain in the first innings although Sammy made 88 in the second.

He tries to outfox the batsmen with changes of pace, but his biggest strength is accuracy which is highlighted by a Twenty20 economy rate of 5.20 and an ODI figure of 3.79. Also since he bowls with the scrambled seam, he makes it difficult for the batsman to read which the ball is going to spin. He then forces them to read off the pitch which means the batsman has to sit and wait. It is not an easy job as Australia will attest to.

So it will be interesting to see Narine bowl to the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell who do not think twice before jumping out of the crease to dominate the spinners. Kieron Pollard, Narine's team-mate and friend at Trinidad and Tobago, thinks Narine has the patience and the temperament to withstand pressure. This is as good a time as any to put Pollard's opinion to the test because West Indies need a matchwinner desperately.

Unlike England, who can afford to rest their leading bowler, James Anderson, due to strong bench strength, West Indies have been forced to recast their line-up owing mainly to injuries. In the absence of Roach, the onus will be on the pair of Ravi Rampaul and Narine. Rampaul is an honest workhorse but cannot single-handedly run through opposition. At the same time it would be unjust to ask Narine to change West Indies' fortunes singlehandedly. The potential, though, is huge.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • whatawicket on June 7, 2012, 16:19 GMT

    my guess as rain is forecast for part of the next 4 days. the WI will load up on pace bowlers as they did in the 1st test. so perhaps the spinner will not get a game.

  • bigwonder on June 7, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    Narine won't matter as all the England pitches are setup to suite their fast bowlers. If they just play out Narine overs then they will be golden.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 7, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @RandyOZ, in that case England have nothing to fear.......

  • Selassie-I on June 7, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    @kums1985 I agree, drunk puter is being a little arrogant saying our U25s could beat this team..! but it could be a contest, certainly in England conditions. Although your picked team is a little spurious with only 1 frontline bowler, bits n pieces cricketers don't tend to do so weel in test cricket when quick slogged 20s and 30s aren't so valuable and the need for accuracy when bowling is all important. looking forward to seeing Narine, i've never begrudged the windies success and would support them in any match bar against England. Hopefully these tribulations with the board can be put to rest over the coming 6 months or so, some of these young players can develop and we can play a full strength windies team when we tour. Looking forward to the ODI series though I think it will be well contested(as long as our weather doesn't conspire to ruin it)

  • on June 7, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    Sorry guys but he's no longer the mystery spinner I mean have you seen what happened to him in the IPL final? CSK smacked all his delivery all over the place, his figures were during that match I think 4 over 0 wickets for 3 runs and that's no mystery. Sorry to say but Narine has turned into Mendis :)

  • RandyOZ on June 7, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    This bloke has nothing on Lyon

  • scottyg on June 7, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    @kums1985, how does randim get to bat higher than Pollard and Dwayne Bravo? He is one of the main reasons why the Windies have such a long tail.

  • JG2704 on June 7, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    @PunchDrunkPunter on (June 06 2012, 22:35 PM GMT) What's the point in trying to stir things up with comments like this? And for the record I think WI have been quite competitive and without our bowlers they may well have made better starts/bigger totals and also may I remind you that 2 of the batsmen you list have played for the senior side and have hardly been a resounding success.

  • sweetspot on June 7, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    Forget the mystery, England will have trouble whichever way this boy turns it. He can tell them what he's going to do and they will still have trouble. But this mystery stuff won't last long. Already there are batsmen willing to take him on like we saw in the IPL final.

  • on June 7, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    Peter Walcott- Very gracious of the WIBC indeed! "Allowing him to earn money they could not not pay him" ....carnival come back again?

  • whatawicket on June 7, 2012, 16:19 GMT

    my guess as rain is forecast for part of the next 4 days. the WI will load up on pace bowlers as they did in the 1st test. so perhaps the spinner will not get a game.

  • bigwonder on June 7, 2012, 14:54 GMT

    Narine won't matter as all the England pitches are setup to suite their fast bowlers. If they just play out Narine overs then they will be golden.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 7, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @RandyOZ, in that case England have nothing to fear.......

  • Selassie-I on June 7, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    @kums1985 I agree, drunk puter is being a little arrogant saying our U25s could beat this team..! but it could be a contest, certainly in England conditions. Although your picked team is a little spurious with only 1 frontline bowler, bits n pieces cricketers don't tend to do so weel in test cricket when quick slogged 20s and 30s aren't so valuable and the need for accuracy when bowling is all important. looking forward to seeing Narine, i've never begrudged the windies success and would support them in any match bar against England. Hopefully these tribulations with the board can be put to rest over the coming 6 months or so, some of these young players can develop and we can play a full strength windies team when we tour. Looking forward to the ODI series though I think it will be well contested(as long as our weather doesn't conspire to ruin it)

  • on June 7, 2012, 11:58 GMT

    Sorry guys but he's no longer the mystery spinner I mean have you seen what happened to him in the IPL final? CSK smacked all his delivery all over the place, his figures were during that match I think 4 over 0 wickets for 3 runs and that's no mystery. Sorry to say but Narine has turned into Mendis :)

  • RandyOZ on June 7, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    This bloke has nothing on Lyon

  • scottyg on June 7, 2012, 9:54 GMT

    @kums1985, how does randim get to bat higher than Pollard and Dwayne Bravo? He is one of the main reasons why the Windies have such a long tail.

  • JG2704 on June 7, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    @PunchDrunkPunter on (June 06 2012, 22:35 PM GMT) What's the point in trying to stir things up with comments like this? And for the record I think WI have been quite competitive and without our bowlers they may well have made better starts/bigger totals and also may I remind you that 2 of the batsmen you list have played for the senior side and have hardly been a resounding success.

  • sweetspot on June 7, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    Forget the mystery, England will have trouble whichever way this boy turns it. He can tell them what he's going to do and they will still have trouble. But this mystery stuff won't last long. Already there are batsmen willing to take him on like we saw in the IPL final.

  • on June 7, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    Peter Walcott- Very gracious of the WIBC indeed! "Allowing him to earn money they could not not pay him" ....carnival come back again?

  • kanyu on June 7, 2012, 6:45 GMT

    i think england will struggle against narine as he has the mystery to pose ENG some problems no matter if it is in ENG

  • kums1985 on June 7, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    mr drunk punter as you said ur under 25 team can beat this team for ur information we have 7 guys under 25 in our team so it is the same here and as far as ur comments we will see in the odi series as this is the strongest westindies team in the recent 10 years starting xI 1)GAYLE 2)SMITH 3)SAMUELS 4)DARREN BRAVO 5)RAMDIN 6)DWAYNE BRAVO 7)POLLARD 8)RUSSELL 9)SAMMY 10)RAMPAUL 11)NARINE as u see this team is unbeatable we have 9 bowlers and 9 batsmen so the bad time starts for cook and boys as we did to watson we will make sure that a clean sweep is done and the captaincy of cook is taken for good lol?

  • on June 7, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    @Joshima England U25 would demolish WI???? So then why is the fullstrength England not obliterating the Not full strength WI team???

    WI are playing without Gayle Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo and are challenging England to the bone. Fences in WI are being mended and a fuller strength WI will play you in the ODIs. We'll make an assesment then.

  • on June 7, 2012, 6:24 GMT

    @harveygangadeen No you got this wrong. Narine was not included in the Aus tests because he was allowed by WIBC to earn the sort of money they could not pay him. US$ 700k in 6 weeks. He was not named in the test 15 because of this.

    After the way he bamboozled the aussies in the ODIs, do you think he would not have automatically been picked for the tests??

  • on June 7, 2012, 6:03 GMT

    'It was a curious inclusion in that Narine had decided to play in the IPL instead of making himself available for the Australia Test or England series' CRICINFO staff writers, get it right. The man did not choose the IPL ahead of the Test series. He was playing in the ODI series against Aussie, then the WICB announced its squad for the Tests and he was not in the 15. He was not given a central contract and coach Gibson admitted to knowing anything about him...check your very same cricinfo articles about the timeline. After these things, when it was obvious he was not in their plans for the tests did the young man go to the IPL...Gibson later commented he could not blame him.

  • YorkshirePudding on June 7, 2012, 5:29 GMT

    @thephill, to be honest Dockerills only just on the radar, and behind, Monty, Kerrigan, Stokes, and Briggs in terms of being an England spinner.

  • rahulcricket007 on June 7, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    don't think narine will make difference . ecb would have ordered edgabuston curator to prepare grassfields . there will be hardly any support for spinner .

  • on June 7, 2012, 4:47 GMT

    Not just Dockrell. Ballance is Zimbabwean. Is that a commonwealth xi? This is an exciting day for cricket in my opinion.

  • jmcilhinney on June 7, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    @Joshima on (June 07 2012, 03:05 AM GMT), which is exactly why the ECB are doing things like the recent Lions tour of Bangladesh and SL. England is probably the least spin-friendly country in all of Test cricket due to the climate. England batsmen don't get to face too much quality spin because it's hard to develop quality spin in what are often cold and wet conditions. As a result, batsmen come into the England team often without having had a lot of exposure to quality spin. Having promising players visit countries with very different conditions is the best way to expose these potential England players to the sorts of conditions they will face in the senior team. You say England need to find a way? Well, they have. It will take time and England may never be great players of spin, but exposure to it is the only way to get better at it. That said, how much do you even know about some of those players? I'll wager you're just making assumptions.

  • thephill on June 7, 2012, 3:19 GMT

    @PunchDrunkPunter. I was under the impression Dockrell was Irish. Not really England policy to import all their young talent is it? Oh...

  • Joshima on June 7, 2012, 3:05 GMT

    @ PunchDrunkPunter your England U25 side will demolish WI only when they play in England. You all don't stand a chance outside of England. Its about time you all find a way to add new dimension to English cricket. Cuz at the moment u all are #1 at home and village away. SMH. And all those players u mention, none of them are special, all average cricketer who know how to do a job.

  • jmcilhinney on June 7, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    I'd be surprised if Sunil Narine doesn't go on to have a very successful career. That said, Ajantha Mendis was the next big thing in spin and he has all but disappeared. I think the key with Mendis is that people learned to pick him. Will the same thing happen with Narine? For all the talk of England's woes against spin, Narine actually had a significantly better average and economy rate against Australia recently than Ajaml did against England, with Ajmal having a slightly better strike rate. That's only in ODIs though, with England winning 4-0 and Australia tying 2-2. Obviously Narine didn't play in those Test matches and England failed miserably against Ajmal. It's an indication though that, when they play the right way, England can handle spin as well as other traditionally pace-oriented nations. English pitches won't help Narine nearly as much as UAE, the Caribbean or India and England will play more positively than they did against Pakistan. An interesting battle awaits.

  • SNIFFLEATHER on June 6, 2012, 22:45 GMT

    The key word is potential, as none of these guys I am about to list are world class acts just yet, but potentially, in a few years time, the Windies could have a very dangerous and varied attack. Think of the possibilities...

    Kemar Roach (RF) low action, uses angles superbly Ravi Rampaul (RFM) stong action, consistent and dangerous seamer Jason Holder (RFM) 6'7" accurate fast bowler (remind you of anybody?) Delorn Johnson (LF) very promising fast left armer, one to watch Sunil Narine (OS) one of the most exciting young talents in world cricket Devendra Bishoo (LBG) recent loss of form a temporary blip, dangerous bowler

    Plenty of cause for hope in the Caribbean.

  • PunchDrunkPunter on June 6, 2012, 22:35 GMT

    England Under 25s XI: Root, Ballance, Taylor(c), Stokes, Morgan, Bairstow, Davies(wk), Woakes, Broad, Finn, Briggs. That side would demolish the likes of Barath, Edwards, Bravo, Powell and co. Crikey, the likes of Matt Coles, Stuart Meaker, George Dockrell and Alex Hales aren't even in our U25 side and they'd get in the current Windies 1st XI! LOL!

  • on June 6, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    Will be interesting to see how effective he is in tests. With no pressure to score quickly will his effectiveness become diluted, or conversely, will men around the bat make him even more effective? Was highly impressed with Narine in the IPL, and I'm looking forward to this.

  • on June 6, 2012, 21:21 GMT

    A drowning man(WI) will clench to a straw(Sunil). Fortunately, Sunil is no straw, neither is he yr conventional spinner. He does things most spinners don't or can't do. I saw him embarrassed Sachin in the IPL & that was s/thing to behold. His performance at the IPL must account for s/thing. Gibson, Sammy & Sunil will have to work out a strategy, regarding their approach towards the ENG batters. Eg no marathon spells & no defensive field. Being deemed the mystery spinner has already given him a psychological advantage. For the good of WI cricket let's hope it works.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 6, 2012, 21:11 GMT

    Hmmm, yeah brings back memories of Paul "frog in a blender" Adams, doesn't it!?

  • Rally_Windies on June 6, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    unless you can take 10 wickets on début, you have no chance to be a spinner on the WI team...

    It does not matter how well you perform, ask Roger Harper and Rangy Nanan ...

  • johnathonjosephs on June 6, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Havent been this excited since India made THAT tour to Sri Lanka in Mendi's debut series. And what a series it was. Pity that West Indies couldn't have pulled Narine up earlier and forced him to skip the IPL. I think a great Test is coming up and a great ODI series as well.

  • on June 6, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    Well, quite clearly the answer must be a resoundig YES! Even if he doesn't succeed this time around they need to get him in there and see what he's got, so many good young cricketers in the West Indies.. It will never come together fast enough for some but they are simmering. If you had to put together test xi's from around the world with an age limit of 25 I think the West Indies team may just beat all comers!

  • Trini4ever on June 6, 2012, 18:35 GMT

    Can't wait to see Narine and Chris live in Ft. Lauderdale Fl. Go Windies!!!

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  • Trini4ever on June 6, 2012, 18:35 GMT

    Can't wait to see Narine and Chris live in Ft. Lauderdale Fl. Go Windies!!!

  • on June 6, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    Well, quite clearly the answer must be a resoundig YES! Even if he doesn't succeed this time around they need to get him in there and see what he's got, so many good young cricketers in the West Indies.. It will never come together fast enough for some but they are simmering. If you had to put together test xi's from around the world with an age limit of 25 I think the West Indies team may just beat all comers!

  • johnathonjosephs on June 6, 2012, 19:30 GMT

    Havent been this excited since India made THAT tour to Sri Lanka in Mendi's debut series. And what a series it was. Pity that West Indies couldn't have pulled Narine up earlier and forced him to skip the IPL. I think a great Test is coming up and a great ODI series as well.

  • Rally_Windies on June 6, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    unless you can take 10 wickets on début, you have no chance to be a spinner on the WI team...

    It does not matter how well you perform, ask Roger Harper and Rangy Nanan ...

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 6, 2012, 21:11 GMT

    Hmmm, yeah brings back memories of Paul "frog in a blender" Adams, doesn't it!?

  • on June 6, 2012, 21:21 GMT

    A drowning man(WI) will clench to a straw(Sunil). Fortunately, Sunil is no straw, neither is he yr conventional spinner. He does things most spinners don't or can't do. I saw him embarrassed Sachin in the IPL & that was s/thing to behold. His performance at the IPL must account for s/thing. Gibson, Sammy & Sunil will have to work out a strategy, regarding their approach towards the ENG batters. Eg no marathon spells & no defensive field. Being deemed the mystery spinner has already given him a psychological advantage. For the good of WI cricket let's hope it works.

  • on June 6, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    Will be interesting to see how effective he is in tests. With no pressure to score quickly will his effectiveness become diluted, or conversely, will men around the bat make him even more effective? Was highly impressed with Narine in the IPL, and I'm looking forward to this.

  • PunchDrunkPunter on June 6, 2012, 22:35 GMT

    England Under 25s XI: Root, Ballance, Taylor(c), Stokes, Morgan, Bairstow, Davies(wk), Woakes, Broad, Finn, Briggs. That side would demolish the likes of Barath, Edwards, Bravo, Powell and co. Crikey, the likes of Matt Coles, Stuart Meaker, George Dockrell and Alex Hales aren't even in our U25 side and they'd get in the current Windies 1st XI! LOL!

  • SNIFFLEATHER on June 6, 2012, 22:45 GMT

    The key word is potential, as none of these guys I am about to list are world class acts just yet, but potentially, in a few years time, the Windies could have a very dangerous and varied attack. Think of the possibilities...

    Kemar Roach (RF) low action, uses angles superbly Ravi Rampaul (RFM) stong action, consistent and dangerous seamer Jason Holder (RFM) 6'7" accurate fast bowler (remind you of anybody?) Delorn Johnson (LF) very promising fast left armer, one to watch Sunil Narine (OS) one of the most exciting young talents in world cricket Devendra Bishoo (LBG) recent loss of form a temporary blip, dangerous bowler

    Plenty of cause for hope in the Caribbean.

  • jmcilhinney on June 7, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    I'd be surprised if Sunil Narine doesn't go on to have a very successful career. That said, Ajantha Mendis was the next big thing in spin and he has all but disappeared. I think the key with Mendis is that people learned to pick him. Will the same thing happen with Narine? For all the talk of England's woes against spin, Narine actually had a significantly better average and economy rate against Australia recently than Ajaml did against England, with Ajmal having a slightly better strike rate. That's only in ODIs though, with England winning 4-0 and Australia tying 2-2. Obviously Narine didn't play in those Test matches and England failed miserably against Ajmal. It's an indication though that, when they play the right way, England can handle spin as well as other traditionally pace-oriented nations. English pitches won't help Narine nearly as much as UAE, the Caribbean or India and England will play more positively than they did against Pakistan. An interesting battle awaits.