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

Spin 'message' hampers England preparation


Alastair Cook admitted he wished that England had been confronted with more spin bowling as they completed their warm-up games ahead of the first Test of the series against India. While England's captain declared himself satisfied with his team's preparations, he did suggest that "a message" had been conveyed to the opposition to ensure the tourists were denied meaningful exposure to spin bowling ahead of the series.

A draw against Haryana meant England had drawn all three of their warm-up matches. But, although every batsman in England's top-order has enjoyed a lengthy innings at some stage, Cook knows that such success may prove deceptive. Some of the opposition has been surprisingly modest.

The absence of spin has been particularly noticeable. Fewer than 11% of the overs bowled against England in the second innings of the three matches has come from spinners and, arguably, none of it has come from what might be described as a quality spinner. It was typical that, in England's second innings against Haryana Amit Misha, the legspinner who has played 13 Tests for India, did not deliver a single ball. It means that England, with a less than illustrious record against top-quality spin bowling in recent times, will go into a series in which spin is expected to play a major role, having had very little meaningful practise against it.

"Clearly we can't control the standard of the opposition," Cook said. "We would have liked to have faced more spin in the matches but that hasn't happened. If anyone has been watching our training sessions while these games have been going on, we've had some good spinners bowling to us in the nets. We'd rather them in the middle but they've been turning out there and all the lads have been putting in some really good practice.

"I don't know who it has come from but clearly there's been a message of some sort. Obviously we've had Amit Mishra missing here. I don't know if he was injured or not but he didn't bowl that many overs, so clearly there's been a message of some kind."

England could have tried to force the win against Haryana. Not only did they decline to enforce the follow-on, but they agreed to an early finish when they had a minimum of 10 more overs to take only four more wickets. Instead, though, Cook opted to rest his bowlers in case they were required on Thursday.

"Clearly we would have liked to have won a game but sometimes common sense has to be used," he said. "There's no point busting a gut today on a very flat wicket with a Test match just around the corner and with [the condition of] our fast bowlers at the moment, especially with a few injury concerns as well."

"The next few days are vital for [Broad and Finn] and we must go into the first Test with a fully fit attack. They have to be 100%"
Alastair Cook

Cook's caution was understandable. While Steven Finn and Stuart Broad both returned to bowling in practice, there are still question marks over the availability of both of them. Cook is adamant that they will not be selected if there are any doubts over their fitness. Indeed, the fact that there are doubts over both of them renders the decision even more tricky for England.

"It's great to see them back bowling," Cook said. "The next few days are vital for them and we must go into that game with a fully fit attack. They have to be 100%. You've seen how hot it is out here and how flat the wickets are. They won't be in the ideal state, the preparation period hasn't quite gone right with those two not playing and getting overs under their belts. We're going to have to see over the next few days and make a decision on that, but clearly we've got to be very careful. In an ideal world, they'd certainly have liked to have more match bowling.

"But what we do know is that they're quality performers. Stuart, especially, has got a lot of experience. He knows what he's doing and he knows when his body is right. We're going to have to assess these guys over the next 24 hours and then make a decision. As a captain, you'd want them to have more match practice but they are world-class bowlers. It would be great if they were fully fit and had some overs under their belt but they haven't."

The performance of Tim Bresnan in Haryana's second innings may have made England's decision a little easier. Bresnan bowled with good control, decent pace and, along with Stuart Meaker, gained enough reverse swing to trouble all the batsmen. His 2 for 13 took his tally to nine wickets in two tour matches.

"In the last session, with the reversing ball, all three of them - Bresnan, Graham Onions and Meaker - showed good control, which is encouraging," Cook said. "We've got six bowlers out here fully fit and on a tough tour like this I'm sure we're going to need that. Tim Bresnan has been an integral part of our attack for last couple of years and he's certainly done himself no harm in this game."

Cook was also encouraged by the news that Graeme Swann returning to India having flown back to the UK due to a family illness. "All the reports have been good and he is coming back on Monday. That's fantastic for us and it's fantastic that all's well at home as well. He's an experienced campaigner and he knows what's he doing. I have no doubts or concerns about Swanny."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shanmugam on November 12, 2012, 21:28 GMT

    @dariuscorny, no that's not what we are claiming. India is the host country and they are welcome to prepare dustbowls but please don't claim that it is a tit-for-tat for the 'green tops' that England prepared. They did not. The tracks in England were quite good for batting as Cook, KP, and Bell proved with their double hundreds. India were suffering a hangover from their WC win, some players were in the twilight of their careers, and they were also missing a few key players due to injuries. However, the most important reason was that England played better cricket. Most of us readily admitted that we were thoroughly outplayed by Pakistan and SA and have no excuses for the defeat other than the fact that the opposition was way better than us. Why is it too hard for Indian fans to accept that England outplayed India? TBH, I see some sensible messages from Indian fans admitting to the same. And, lastly, I do agree that watching cricket against qlty spin is as good as battle against pace.

  • Peter on November 12, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    @malkajgiri. Well said. Absolutely spot on.

  • Peter on November 12, 2012, 20:50 GMT

    @aby_prasad. Thanks mate. I haven't got issues with passionate supporters, but I do have a problem with people who knock champions, champion teams or just pour out negative, ill informed comments. All the best to your team in the coming series, as long as the matches are competitive & standard high, I simply enjoy test match cricket.

  • darius on November 12, 2012, 18:13 GMT

    some Eng fans here are claiming that pitches used last year against IND were flat and they beat IND there with ease,its as if that IND has always been beaten there on flat tracks and Eng looses here on rank turners,well it suggests Eng are champs and the world needs mine fields to dessimate them,but no human effort can dismantle them......they hv been shown good when opposition is rebuilding or ageing(not anything else)............

  • Vijay on November 12, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    As an Indian cricket supporter I hate to admit that there is no need for the England team to panic. Our batting line up is not comfortable playing against the likes of Bresnan, Broad, Meaker, Finn and Anderson - who are quality bowlers. This definitely opens up the series. Hopefully we get to see some good, quality test cricket after all the T20/IPL/ODI overdose.

  • C on November 12, 2012, 15:22 GMT

    @cricindia4life, rightly said. Its wrong to deny a visiting side proper practice. It reflects poorly on the host and maybe even portrays desperation of the host to win at any cost. Coming to the Brits , they have to accept that they are poor tourists to the Asian countires and for many years their best players never bothered to come to Asia. Remember , Tony Lewis captaining England on debut in India in 1972. This team had many players just breaking into the English team and went on to play a sterling role for their country [ Fletcher, Tony Greg, Chris Old, Dennis Amis and another Dennis I forget] . The point I am making is, touring Asia is tough, [ heat, dust, humidity , spinning tops, food etc ]but is cricket not about conquering the conditions [ and the demons in your mind ] and coming on top. The true test of a great team is in winning every where consistently . England can lay claim to be a very good team if they win here and will justify their ranking.

  • Srinivas on November 12, 2012, 15:05 GMT

    @Paul Rone-Clarke: Utter drivel. It indeed is an amusing sight to see batsmen with bamboozled expressions on their faces and struggling against proper spin bowlers (not the pretenders who go around as spinners that you get in county cricket) with close-in fielders surrounding the batsmen. And you do realise that at least you are one of the 40 posters who is interested in this series to come and post a comment? As usual your favourite fruit is sour grapes!

  • Deepak on November 12, 2012, 14:33 GMT

    @big_al_81 - If Indian spinners are not world-class, its a shame that the English batting lineup crumbled to a modest total of 80 against even more 'non-world-class' spinners like Chawla and Harbhajan in the recently concluded WT20. (Mind you, they were 60/9 at one stage xD)

  • Bhaskar on November 12, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    There is & was only 1 team in the cricketing fraternity that goes allout to win every match & that is Australia. All other teams are contended with a draw giving some excuse or the other especially in foreign conditions.

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

    @Paul Rone-Clarke :Utter nonsense. The battles that spin bowlers create with 6 close in fielders and the batsmen trying to find a way out of the strangehold is an entertaining sight. You might be of the opinion that Marshall migth have provided the pace and fizz..no doubts, but trott or cook is no Richards or Clive Lloyd by a long mile. Atleast India have a few "entertaining" players.Its an absolute Yawn minus KP to watch England bat.

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