England v WI, World T20 2012, Super Eights, Pallekele September 26, 2012

West Indies target England spin problem


England will face another examination against spin in their first World Twenty20 Super Eights tie against West Indies in Pallakele on Thursday. Destroyed by India's Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla at the group stage, they must now combat West Indies' Sunil Narine and a potential unknown accomplice, Samuel Badree.

Narine is West Indies' "trump card" according to their captain, Darren Sammy, but perhaps it is possible to exaggerate the likely extent of the ordeal after England's batting horrors against India. The most danger to England is more likely to emanate from the usual place: West Indies' long list of destructive batsmen.

Narine had a bowling average of 199 in England last summer in all competitions - his only wicket came when he dismissed Jonathan Trott in an ODI at the Rose Bowl and Trott is not even here. After his success in the IPL, England played Narine rather well. If he is to prove a trump card, it will have needed a change of suit since the sides last met.

As for Badree, he is a 31-year-old legspinner from Trinidad whose international exposure amounts to two T20I matches against New Zealand in the United States. He claimed Tim Southee as his only wicket and is the only international player who can fairly claim to be bigger in Florida than the rest of the cricketing world. There again, he is an unknown quantity and, in England's current state, that is a good thing to be.

It is not that the Pallakele pitch is expected to favour the spinners, not this early in the tournament anyway, just that West Indies have unsurprisingly taken a view. It was hard not to after the way England capitulated to India, bowled out for 80, their lowest Twenty20 score.

But even if you add in the offspin of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, who are both most notable for the expenditure of a minimal number of calories in delivery, England will be telling themselves that their fallibility against spin is in danger of being overplayed.

England's T20I captain, Stuart Broad, is doing his best to shrug it off. "We are ready for that," he said. "It is not as if we have found out yesterday that people are going to bowl spin at us. Coming to Sri Lanka, we sort of knew that because those are the conditions we will face. It is important as individuals we try to counteract it."

Broad refuses to accept that England have technical issues against spin bowling. Even if he harbours doubts, it is far too late to do much about it now. The only option is to try to restore self-belief and trust that England somehow brazen it through.

"The challenge is all mental," he claimed. "It is all about getting yourself back into a positive frame of mind and reminding the guys in the team that they are good players. They have performed well to get into this England team and we have match-winners in this side.

"We just talked about our strengths. Learn from the mistakes you make but don't dwell on them. We have players who have played spin well. We have talked about how we've done that."

But Sammy looked particularly perky as he presented Narine as a potential matchwinner. "We will definitely look to bowl spin against them," he said. "I think everyone who comes on to bowl has a big part to play but Sunil is our trump card. He has done well for us in international matches and hopefully he'll have a big impact on the English batting line-up.

"England are the defending world champions. I don't think they will allow the last game India to play on their minds. We have our plans and just have to go out and execute them."

Sammy excused Narine's poor show in England on the grounds of miserable weather, which did not make the pitches conducive to spin and pointed out, accurately enough, that England's senior spin bowler, Graeme Swann, also survived on meagre returns.

Broad is not the first person to extol the attractions of Pallakele. Contrast that with Sri Lanka's unveiling of the jerry-built, and unfinished, Dambulla Stadium to unsuspecting England tourists about a decade ago and it is a huge stride forward.

"It's my first time to the ground, it looks fantastic," Broad said. "It reminds me a bit of Caribbean grounds actually."

Another reason, perhaps, why Sammy was feeling so content.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jagan on September 27, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    @JG2704 - My mistake. Its "jackthelad". Search for him using Ctrl + F and you will see him making the statement that I just quoted.

  • John on September 27, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    @TheGunWarriors on (September 27 2012, 12:13 PM GMT) Not sure. I saw one post by the person you mentioned on this thread but no mention of Narine.

  • John on September 27, 2012, 14:41 GMT

    @Meety on (September 27 2012, 11:41 AM GMT) I'm disappointed to have lost the toss and have already said I think batting second does not suit England at all. Not sure what the weather forecast is. I'd say 150 is a benchmark and anything over that I fancy WI. Also - and I'll be delighted to be proven wrong - I think Finn and Dernbach = a lot of runs conceded. Maybe the pitch is better for pace? But I'd like to have seen Briggs in there.

  • John on September 27, 2012, 14:40 GMT

    @Rogerunionjack on (September 27 2012, 09:18 AM GMT) Narine is probably decent but maybe not AS good as some make him out to be but better than he showed in England

  • Jagan on September 27, 2012, 12:29 GMT

    @yorkshirematt - I agree with you, mate. A good bowler should take wickets in all surfaces. But let's cut him some slack. Flying to England after 2 months of hot indian conditions is tough. I am NOT justifying Narine's failure there, all I am saying is that its a bit too harsh to judge him based on England's performance alone. I know a lot of people (outside India) don't follow IPL and performances there are not a good yardstick to judge a player, but let me tell that on a good pitch Narine is ABSOLUTELY terrifying. Its NOT just about his mystery, his accuracy is amazing too. He can take wickets even when people are trying to defend him.

  • Geoffrey on September 27, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    I like to see the West Indies resurgent however I hope it isn't at Englands expense! That said won't be watching, this format bores me to tears.

  • Jagan on September 27, 2012, 12:13 GMT

    @JG2704 - Ok I think I may have gotten a little bit carried away. But here's a comment made by jackiethepen here (England know Narine and, despite his phenomenal early stage, he's nothing special - certainly not compared to the Indian and Pakistan spinners). On top of that, the tone of this article got to me. As an Indian fan, I can assure that compared to Narine, both Harbhajan and Chawla are a joke. I heard Samuel Badree is extremely good too. But again, it ALL depends on the pitch. If its a neutral one, Narine will play a huge role. If its a belter, then may be NOT.

  • Dummy4 on September 27, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    I personally feel that if England today can even manage to play Gayle ,s spin , they would have done wonders , forget playing Narine,s bowling which is bigger challange for england here . I think it will be a easy win for WI as long as they win the TOSS and bat first .

  • Andrew on September 27, 2012, 11:41 GMT

    @JG2704 on (September 27 2012, 07:21 AM GMT) - in ODIs/T20s, I think Oz bowlers got too fixated on bowling low full tosses wide off stump. They should of (as you have said with England) been trying yorkers. re: coind toss - I imagine every game is going to have the threat of rain, so I would be batting 2nd, but for England, batting first with a young line up is probably prudent. I watched a bit of Oz v WIndies in the WIndies a few months back & was amazed at how good the WIndies lower order hit & sort of felt on a decent pitch they can chase anything. Anyways - hopefully it's a good game - the WIndies may be a bit short of a gallop in the field having barely bowled 20 overs.

  • Dummy4 on September 27, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    its more a worry for england to play spin then for india and other subcontinental giants of countering seam as potential tourist to thheir respective contries .

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