Haryana v England XI, Ahmedabad, 4th day November 11, 2012

Positives for England despite spin mystery


Haryana 334 (Dewan 143) and 133 for 6 (Saini 50, Bresnan 2-13) drew with England XI 521 (Pietersen 110) and 254 for 6 dec (Trott 101, Compton 79, Budhwar 3-51)

This warm-up match had become a futile exercise long before it was condemned to a draw. There were 10 overs remaining when the captains shook hands but, despite England having a decent chance of forcing victory, few would have argued with the decision. If ever a game was crying out for euthanasia it was this one. It should probably have been sent to a Swiss clinic after the third day.

It speaks volumes for the facile nature of the cricket that Nick Compton, having batted for over two-and-a-half hours, went to the nets for more meaningful practise moments after having been dismissed. He and Jonathan Trott had, after all, faced just 12 deliveries of spin between them during their first-wicket partnership of 162 in 51.3 overs.

More significant was the action on the practice ground. Both Stuart Broad and Steven Finn were able to bowl at full pace and, though Broad was perhaps not quite himself - he did not deliver a bouncer or ask for a review in five or six overs of bowling - Finn looked impressive. It remains to be seen if they suffer any reaction to the spells over the next day or two but, for now, both look to have a decent chance of being available for Test selection. Graeme Swann will also rejoin the squad on Monday having briefly returned to the UK due to a family illness.

On the pitch, Trott completed the 30th century of his first-class career. He struck the ball well but did not face a single delivery from Amit Mishra, the legspinner who has played 13 Tests for India, and will know that he will encounter much less modest bowling in the Test series.

It is open to debate how much use these warm-up games have been. While most expect the battle between India's spinners and England's batsmen to define the series, England have had little chance to prepare for that specific battle. Despite having played three warm-up games, England have faced just 13.2 overs of spin in the second innings combined: less than 11% of the second innings overs they have faced. None of them have been against what might be described as high-quality spin bowling.

While the tactic - and it is hard to believe it is not a deliberate tactic - of denying England exposure to good quality spin bowling or even spin-friendly conditions may be controversial, it is also legitimate. India would be foolish not to tailor conditions to suit them - the point of home advantage would be negated otherwise - and have, in all other ways, extended every courtesy to England. The BCCI exercised some magnanimity by allowing England to use a substitute wicketkeeper when Matt Prior was taken ill against Haryana - the Laws make it quite clear that the umpires could not allow it - and it is worth remembering that when India toured England in 2011 Northamptonshire rested several first-choice bowlers for their tour game. The days when domestic sides fielded their strongest team against touring sides are, in any country by and large, long gone.

Besides, the tactic may backfire. England's batsmen have enjoyed prolonged time at the crease - albeit against some very modest bowling - and several of the bowlers have experienced the heat of battle. Playing England into form - four of the top six have recorded centuries in the warm-up games - and confidence could come back to bite. Not so long ago, when Australia and West Indies were at their strongest, most of their domestic sides that played England gave them an almighty battle. The effect was to wear and demoralise the tourists.

England's more significant worries concern the lack of match bowling that Finn and Broad have experienced and the unconvincing nature of their slip catching. Alastair Cook, in particular, has some work to do if he is to make the first slip position his own. The thought of dropping Sachin Tendulkar early is enough to keep an England supporter awake at night with anxiety.

Some might point to the fact that they lost five wickets for 14 runs in the first innings and five wickets for 34 runs in the second. But, on both occasions, the batsmen were thrashing out in a scenario that will not be replicated in the Test series. On this occasion, Matt Prior was run out, backing up, after the bowler, Jayant Yadav, got a hand on Ian Bell's straight drive and the ball ricocheted onto the stumps, while Compton was caught down the leg side and Kevin Pietersen was caught on the long-on boundary.

There was, briefly, a moment when it appeared England might win this game on the last afternoon. When Haryana, chasing a most improbable 442 to win, slipped to 110 for 6 with nearly an hour to go, England had every opportunity to push for the win. But, realising that such an outcome was largely meaningless and that they had garnered all they could from the game, the sides agreed to shake hands early.

The bowlers had worked hard enough, by then. Stuart Meaker again generated the most pace, Tim Bresnan also bowled with good hostility and control, while Graham Onions found the rhythm that had been absent during the first innings and looked a much-improved bowler. Monty Panesar was tight as ever but, on a slightly worn pitch, generated just a little spin, while Samit Patel earned a wicket with a well-disguised change of pace. For Haryana, Nitin Saini produced a pleasing half-century, but England know this was a game and a warm-up period that offered a pale imitation of the far sterner tests that await.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sreekanth on November 14, 2012, 5:44 GMT

    @jmcilhinney - I think the Eng are looking for something like this and they are finding it. If Amit mishra really was asked not to bowl to Eng, then why did he bowl 17.1 overs in the first innings? Couldn't there be some other reason (injury, insignificant match state, give a chance to team mates etc.) for him not bowling in the second innings considering he is the captain of that team?

    In the India-A match, while for england it was a practice match, for indians it was really about showing one's worth to be selected in the main team. The 3 spinners were already finalized, and india just needed to finalize on the batsmen and backup pacemen. If you observe the paceman who had the best performance in that match (Ashok Dinda) is now in the main team as a replacement for Ishant Sharma (preferred over Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan, both more experienced).

    In the second match, Eng played against Mumbai-A NOT Mumbai, and so they faced their backup spinner Nikhil Patil.

  • Roo on November 13, 2012, 9:12 GMT

    @George Dobell :- "The days when domestic sides fielded their strongest team against touring sides are, in any country by and large, long gone"...

    Another typical sub-average writer that bags all other countries - especially Oz... Perhaps you could limit that comment to Eng & Ind at present... George, do you live by the supposition that its ok for Eng to do it, as long as no one else does the same?... What about the Eng v Oz tour last time down under?... 3x3day & 1x4day warm-up matches... All good pitches & all good strong teams with a number of sporting declarations... Last tour to SA by Eng it started with a T20 series with 3 warm-ups; a 5xODI series with a warm-up; followed by another warm-up match with good opposition before the Test series... 12 matches before the Test series started... Would also add NZ, Pak, WI's to the list that doesn't follow your biased logic...

  • John on November 13, 2012, 1:24 GMT

    @Sachin Chaudhari on (November 11 2012, 19:50 PM GMT), that's a quite different situation. England certainly did not deny India bowlers for bet practice but do you really consider it reasonable that the ECB allow their #2 spinner and someone who was a decent chance of playing in the Test series bowl to the Indian batsmen in the nets?

  • John on November 13, 2012, 1:18 GMT

    @yoohoo on (November 12 2012, 14:08 PM GMT), like so many other India supporters, you're missing the point. It's not the standard of the opposition that is the issue. It's the makeup. As you say, Mishra is one of the better spinners in India and he was in the Haryana team, yet he didn't bowl an over out of 76 in the second innings. Is he in the team as a batting all-rounder? Also, the India A team in the first warmup didn't contain a frontline spinner. Can any India fan honestly say that the second best squad available to the India selectors to play in India doesn't include a frontline spinner? No way. People say that Yuvraj took some wickets but that's hardly the point. It's the intention that is the issue. I say again, it is within the rules and I think that India generally play cricket in a very sportsmanlike manner, e.g. recalling Ian Bell and whichever SL batsman it was who was run out backing up, but I think that this is a dirty tactic and doesn't reflect well on Indian cricket.

  • Sreekanth on November 12, 2012, 14:08 GMT

    There has been a lot of complaints about the quality of the bowling attack. These are the standard bowlers of those teams, just because you don't know their names does not mean they are bad bowlers! Amit Mishra is one of the India Probables and in the top 10 indian spin bowlers currently (he even played in the series in eng), and he bowled 17 overs in the haryana match! We don't know any of the Somerset or northamtonshire bowlers either (who played warm-ups against india), so should we think they are low quality too?

  • Mark on November 12, 2012, 13:51 GMT

    @JG, at the time, Northants were runaway leaders of Division 2, so they were most certainly realistic opposition. It is hard to imagine anyone suggesting that Somerset, one of the most consistent sides of the last 25 years and rarely out of contention for titles (even if they seem to find remarkable ways of not winning them) are not realistic opposition. It's all a storm in a tea cup anyway. For England it is about middle time, getting acclimatised and spending a day and a half in the field chasing leather and learning how to take wickets. The best day of preparation was the day on a flat pitch where nothing happened for the bowlers because that really was preparing them for some hard work in the Tests. We'll see how it pans out, but there is nothing like a run transfusion to build confidence in batsmen... a run transfusion that they most notably did not have before the Pakistan series. Are England being lulled into a false sense of security? We'll see next week!!

  • Sreekanth on November 12, 2012, 13:33 GMT

    @sensible-indian-fan - You are exaggerating. The pitches are the same, as what you would find in actual tests, which is batting tracks on days 1-3 and then spinning on day 4 & 5. The problem for england was that all the practice matches were 3-day matches, so they never ended up facing the day 4&5 pitch. And secondly, Amit Mishra DID bowl a LOT of overs in this match (17 ov) in the match. So, what is the problem here? And don't tell me about the practice that somerset gave indians (Suresh Raina made 103, so you can make a guess on the conditions and the bowlers)!

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    @ Arnab - I thnk only the third game was first class status. No one in the England camp is complaining. Cooke said he would like his side to have faced more spin - a statement of fact, and that is the only word I have heard from an official England source. The MEDIA are making up a storm, but no-one in England cares enough about a game on slow dull pitches that is on in before breakfast during the freezing cold dark working week here in the UK. I doubt 50,000 will either watch or listen to these matches in total here in the UK - because test cricket on slow Indian pitches is very very dull indeed.

  • Nigel on November 12, 2012, 10:23 GMT

    @Arnab Banerjee. I agree with you about the BCCI's prerogative in organizing the tour matches. But I haven't heard the players complain, as usual it's the media that's carping. Please don't make the mistake of assuming that a journalist is representing the views of the team.

  • Matthew on November 12, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    That England will face good quality spin in the test matches is open to debate. I think for the first time in a while England have three spinners that can match India's. Harbhajan has been a great bowler but is past his prime, whilst Ojha and Ashwin are no better than Swann and Panesar. I have no problem with India's tactics, although I feel England will cope better in India than India did in English conditions.

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