August 14, 2002

Tufnell's Turn

Phil Tufnell

I think England played very well at Trent Bridge in the second Test against India. Michael Vaughan did fantastically well - and I'm talking about his batting! He did well enough with the ball, but he is not the sort of bowler you throw the ball to when you get on a turner and expect him to bowl out a Test side. A couple of wickets here and there is useful, but it might come as no surprise to you that I spent the final stages of the Test bemoaning the fact that England had gone in without a front-line spinner. What's more, I reckon Nasser Hussain might have felt much the same.

He could certainly have justified playing a spinner on the last day at Trent Bridge because the ball was turning. Of course, there's always the outside chance that I might be a bit biased, but I reckon you should always play a spinner anyway. If you want to play five bowlers, that's great but surely there should be a place for a spinner among those five? I know we were struggling to get a quorum of fit seamers by the end, but it might not have mattered had we had a specialist spinner to take advantage of the conditions.

Looking back, I can remember playing in England sides when we had only three seamers and me, and I was called into action about an hour before lunch on the first morning. It only needed one of the seamers to go round the park and I was on. With five seamers, there are loads of options and if you want to play that many, fair enough, but I can't help but feel that selection is over doing it.

I know there was once a feeling that the Indians were not that good against pace, but even if that holds water, you could still have four pace bowlers and find room for a spinner. Let's face it, if you go into a match with five bowlers you must be able to find room for balance and variety by playing a spinner.

For one thing, it's not altogether fair on the seamers they did pick. By the time it comes to their turn to bowl, they could be out of nick. They stand around all day having been picked as a seamer and end up bowling just half a dozen overs. The other thing is that most of these quick bowlers are used to taking the new ball, either for England or for their counties, or at least coming on first change. It might not put them in the greatest frame of mind to come on third change when the ball is far from new and they've been grazing in the outfield for a while.

I could understand it if the batting wasn't firing so you might pick four seamers and go for the extra batting option, but five bowlers of the same type and no spinner doesn't make sense to me. I know there were swingers and seamers and bang-it-in bowlers, but I would just like to think that the selectors might sit down and think they got it wrong for Trent Bridge. No big deal, but put it in the memory bank for next time. Next time? That's Headingley, so it might have to be the time after next.

All in all though, things are going well for England this summer. I thought the new boys did OK and looked at home. I know it's said it's easier to come into a winning team, but that again is a sign of progress. England are getting better as a unit, which is shown by the way they can slip the new boys in almost unnoticed as far as the efficiency of the team is concerned. We've got to keep it going now. Keep scoring the big runs, keep bowling the opposition out. Basic stuff, but so important and now we're one up with two to play, keep the old size nine on the throat and not let the opposition get back into it. It's happened before that we've been well on top and then allowed opponents to wriggle free. After the win at Lord's, the draw at Trent Bridge must not be seen as a way back for the Indians. We need to hit hard again at the first opportunity.

Paragon Sports Management
Phil Tufnell appears courtesy
of Paragon Sports Management