India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 4th day

Hymn to England's spin twins

The performance by Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann in Mumbai was one of the greatest slow-bowling double acts in England's history

David Hopps

November 26, 2012

Comments: 52 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar in the England dressing room, India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 4th day, Monday, November 26, 2012
Matt Prior tweeted a picture of England's spin twins in the dressing room after the game © Twitter

There has arguably never been an England spin bowling partnership like it. Not in a single Test. Not where two England slow bowlers have shared the workload and worked together to pull off a famous victory.

Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, in dismantling India at the Wankhede, and returning joint match figures of 19 for 323, have between them produced the greatest England spin double act of modern times. Perhaps of all time.

This was only the fourth occasion that England spinners had combined to take 19 wickets or more wickets in a Test and the first time for 54 years since Jim Laker and Tony Lock teamed up to demolish New Zealand at Headingley.

Thanks to Swann, as garrulous as ever, there is even a wonderful quote to mark the occasion when Panesar, with reference to the fact they had bowled in tandem in seven previous Tests without success, told his spin-bowling partner before the match: "Come on brother, let's do it, let's win one."

It was Panesar who attracted most acclaim with his match analysis of 11 for 210 but Swann is hardly overshadowed by his own return of 8 for 113. They hunted together as so few England spinners have been able to do in the past. They hunted, too, as a perfect complement to each other: one left arm and one right arm, one intense and the other free spirited.

The English spin bowler is a put-upon soul, often forced to operate alone and, in England, in conditions alien to spin bowling: unresponsive pitches, chilly temperatures and captains who are always one ball away from losing faith and inviting another seam bowler on for a spell.

It is therefore perhaps appropriate that one of England's greatest spin bowling displays came from Tony Greig against West Indies in Port of Spain in 1973.

It was appropriate because he only switched to offspin out of necessity during the tour because his medium pace was in danger of getting a battering. Greig took 13 wickets in the match and, even though three specialist spinners - Derek Underwood, Jack Birkenshaw and Pat Pocock - added five more, it essentially felt like a single-handed triumph. It was a great England victory, but nobody could fairly sell it as a double act.

Talk of England spin combinations and attention rightly switches to Laker and Lock, the Surrey pair who along with Yorkshire's Johnny Wardle provided the slow-bowling craft during England's golden age of the 1950s, but it is possible to argue that when you consider the best match performance by a pair of England spinners in tandem even they have been outdone by Swann and Panesar's exploits in Mumbai.

When Laker and Lock took all 20 against Australia in 1956, Laker had 19 of them. If that really counts as a double act, there is no doubt that Laker got all the good lines. When they shared 19 wickets more evenly against New Zealand two years later, they conceded only 108 runs, statistically far superior. But that was during a mismatch of a series. Swann and Panesar won a Test for England in India when the chips were down.

The story of English spin bowling is a story of occasional triumph amid years of hardship. Swann, in the past few years, has challenged that perception. He now has a partner alongside him.

Enjoy it while it lasts because history suggests it rarely lasts very long. Who knows, it could even be over by Christmas. Were it to prosper enough for England to win the series, it would be remembered as long as cricket survives.

Six great England spin double acts

India v England, Kanpur, 1952

Malcolm Hilton 4-32 and 5-61
Roy Tattersall 6-48 and 2-77
Jack Robertson DNB and 2-17

Malcolm Hilton drew attention to himself at 19 when playing for Lancashire in 1948 he dismissed Don Bradman twice in a match. But he struggled to justify his overnight fame until he was called up with his Lancashire colleagues Brian Statham and fellow spinners Bob Berry and Roy Tattersall for a 1951/2 tour of India.

Kanpur was a dreamlike surface for a young left-arm spinner. Hilton, Tattersall and Jack Robertson, an occasional offbreak bowler for Middlesex, took 19 wickets in the match and Hilton and Tattersall, an offspinner, opened in the second innings while Statham had a rare day of inactivity. England won by eight wickets. A successful Test career beckoned but his control deserted him as the 1950s progressed and after he was chosen as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers Of The Year in 1957, his career faded.

England v Australia, Old Trafford, 1956

Jim Laker 9-37 and 10-53
Tony Lock 1-37 and 0-69 Alan Oakman 0-21

Jim Laker's Ashes summer in 1956 has passed into cricketing folklore. His offspin was at its peak and he demoralised Australia, with 46 wickets in the series and 19 at Old Trafford, where he took all ten in the second innings with half an hour to spare on a rain-hit final day. Never have pictures of sawdust-laden squares looked so endearing.

Few would present this as a double act but Tony Lock, Laker's spin-bowling ally with Surrey and England, was exhausted enough to feel that it was. Lock bowled 69 overs in the match, a few more balls than Laker, and denied him all 20 by removing Jim Burke, who was as obdurate as they come, in Australia's first innings. He also caught Burke off Laker second time around. Without Lock, things might have turned out differently.

South Africa v England, Cape Town, 1956-57

Johnny Wardle 5-53 and 7-36
Jim Laker 1-65 and 2-7

Johnny Wardle was unfortunate that for much of the 1950s. England preferred the more aggressive qualities of Lock alongside Laker, but Laker was quick to remark that Wardle bowled some of the finest spells he had ever seen.

In a series where pedestrian batting was never far away, the charms of the Yorkshire spinner, purveyor of both left-arm orthodox and chinamen (the latter frowned upon at his county) were a blessed relief. Wardle dominated in Cape Town with 12 wickets in the match. Laker, though, played a part in history when Russell Endean, fending him off, became the first batsman to be dismissed Handled Ball.

England v West Indies, The Oval, 1957

Jim Laker 3-39 and 2-38
Tony Lock 5-28 and 6-20

Kennington Oval rarely felt more like home for Laker and Lock than in the 1957 Test against West Indies. It was over in three days and West Indies, bundled out for 89 and 86, were grateful to a 21-year-old on his first England tour who made 39 and 42. Even then it was apparent that Garry Sobers was going to become a helluva player.

The West Indies had been awarded five-day Tests for the first time but, unlike 1950, they failed to shine. Their spin pairing of Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine had little success and by the time of the final Test at The Oval, it was Lock, shirt billowing and bowling his left-arm spin at a fair lick, along with the more elegant Laker who held sway.

England v New Zealand, Headingley, 1958

Jim Laker 5-17 and 3-27
Tony Lock 4-14 and 7-51

England won by an innings and 21 runs in a match where New Zealand could barely get the ball of the square in their second innings, crawling to 129 in 101.2 overs (an excruciating run rate of 1.26).

The weather was dreadful in 1958 and so was much of the cricket, as England won four of their five Tests at a canter, three of them by an innings. Lock had an unbelievable season, statistically, with 34 wickets at 7.47 runs each, but others found less pleasure in recollecting what was essentially a mismatch.

Sri Lanka v England, Colombo, 1981-82

John Emburey 0-55 and 6-33
Derek Underwood 5-28 and 3-67

When Keith Fletcher, England's captain, expressed fears that the pitch for Sri Lanka's inaugural Test had been excessively watered, The Times, in a memorable misprint, said that Fletcher made his observation when England arrived "for early-morning bets". These were more innocent times.

Sri Lanka's first innings had been rounded up by Derek Underwood's brisk slow left-arm but they conceded only a five-run first-innings lead as England lost their last five wickets for 23 on the third morning. Bob Willis lambasted his colleagues as they complained about a succession of dubious umpiring decisions. His exhortations initially had little effect, but Sri Lanka lost their last seven wickets for eight runs, the parsimonious Middlesex offspinner John Emburey taking five in 33 deliveries, and England escaped embarrassment.

And one that got away:

Pakistan v England, Dhaka, 1961/2

Tony Lock 4-155 and 4-70
David Allen 2-94 and 5-30

Lock and Allen shared 15 wickets, and all manner of bit-part spinners provided support, but England could not force victory in Dhaka. The main reason for that was the presence of Hanif Mohammad, one of the finest defensive batsmen in Test history, who made painstaking hundreds in both innings. Hanif is regarded by some as the originator of the reverse sweep but it is fair to say that in this Test he did not play it very often.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (November 29, 2012, 2:08 GMT)

@ Lmaotsetung on (November 28 2012, 01:54 AM GMT) - I can never understand why Monty isn't a much better fielder than what he is. I think he has the longest fingers in world cricket! BTW - I think most comments mistook the Heading Summary didn't mention greatest ENGLAND combination. Only once you get to the article is it more appropriate. I know when I saw the headline I was shaking my head saying when will the journos learn, then quickly saw that it was England specific.

Posted by Meety on (November 29, 2012, 2:03 GMT)

@getsetgopk on (November 28 2012, 09:16 AM GMT) - Swann gets prefered to Panesar for a number of reasons, I would say "...wasn't english enough..." was NOT one of them.1. Statistically as a bowler Swann is Monty's superior (although I think for whatever reason Monty is better in Indian conditions). 2. Swann is a very handy tail end batsmen, he is probably only just shy of allrounder status. 3. Swann is a very very good slipper, which is an important position (catches win matches), Monty is fairly poor in the field. So as @jmcilhinney suggested, when you have a general policy to play 3 seamers & one spinner, a selection between Swann & Panesar is fairly easy. I think everybody involved in English cricket (fans, management & players), deeply regret not playing Monty for the 1st Test! I would hope they don't make that mistake again!

Posted by Naresh28 on (November 28, 2012, 23:45 GMT)

INDIAN cricket is in bad shape at moment. I dont think there is any test playing nation that likes us. BCCI needs to change this image. Also we as indian fans have had enough of "TALK BUT NO ACTION" from the captain,team, selectors, BCCI. There is a need of shutting the mouth and enjoy the game and play well. You win some and you lose some. Indian fans also fuel this hatred. Pakistan and SL never open their mouths at all.

Posted by JG2704 on (November 28, 2012, 18:59 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster on (November 27 2012, 19:35 PM GMT) To be fair , the author is just listing this as a great performance and listed the stats to compare against.And also the lines "Enjoy it while it lasts because history suggests it rarely lasts very long. Who knows, it could even be over by Christmas" suggest the author is not getting too carried away.

Posted by brusselslion on (November 28, 2012, 13:52 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster: I tend to agree with you that the English media can go over-the-top after one, albeit very good, win. However, one possible reason for animosity towards Indian readers can be seen in the post by @PiyushD 08:45: If ever, there was a time for Indian posters to be humble I'd suggest it was now.

Posted by Harlequin. on (November 28, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

@Danyel Amjad - eh???!!! @frontfootlunge - stop trolling, you're giving us a bad name. @Cpt.Meanster - I reckon Swann might go down as one of the 'great' English players, he filled a gaping chasm in our line-up when he arrived and has consistently been one of the top 2/3 spinners in the world since. A couple more years of this sort of thing and he'll be up there.

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 28, 2012, 9:16 GMT)

@jmcilhinney: I would like to think that I'm not mistaken about SL. If Eng loosing is how you judge a bowler then Swann played in all the matches in UAE and Eng lost all of them so we should drop swann, seems a mere excuse. You cant drop a bowler for having one bad game? I'm aware of this Eng tendency to rely on pace rather than spin as they mostly play on pacy wickets but here in asia, playing three seamers is a very unproductive exercise. No good is going to come out of playing 3 or even more seamers unless you are a wasim akram or waqar younus or have outright pace of shoaib akhtar. In asia atleast, Eng will have a much better and realistic chance of winning with 2 specialist spinners. A spinner might have an occasional off day but if you hold it against him by dropping him, you'll suffer!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 28, 2012, 8:54 GMT)

@Dhirendra Singh on (November 28 2012, 05:18 AM GMT), you're just making things up. Swann dismissed Pujara twice as well as Gambhir, Kohli and Yuvraj. If they're tail-enders then India has a mightily long tail.

Posted by PiyushD on (November 28, 2012, 8:45 GMT)

Wait for next match and see Panesar running for cover.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (November 28, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

@getsetgopk on (November 28 2012, 05:12 AM GMT), it's not that the ECB have anything against Monty specifically. It's just that they are extremely conservative and, given that spin bowling hasn't been a strength for England for a long time, they find it very difficult to pick a team that seems to be going away from their strength. I think that UAE did teach them something but you're mistaken about SL. They played Monty in the first game and lost and then dropped him for the second game and won. I think that that cancelled out the message from UAE and caused them to make the wrong decision at the start of this series. Hopefully they've relearned the lesson here. England has no more Tests in the subcontinent for some time after this series though, so we may not see Monty in an England shirt again after Nagpur.

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 5:18 GMT)

Unbelievable article! Whereas Panesar took out nearly all front-line batsman. Swan could manage with wickets on tail-enders. Yet, the author could not resist equalling swan to Panesar. Even when Panesar did all the hard work Credit was given to Swan for pre match motivation. Is it too hard to accept that this victory was achieved mainly by Kevin and Monty -not the typical "English" players ??

Posted by getsetgopk on (November 28, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge: Yes no competition at all since the UAE happened some one hundred years ago in 1911. Monty is a great bowler but he probably wasn't english enough to earn a place in the side for the first match, because I can't think of any other reason for his non selection. Same thing happened in UAE as well and in SL too? Over the years I have seen English cricket to be more welcoming to foreigners who come to England to seek a career in cricket there. Monty, born and bread in Eng deserve better. His arm ball is just as good as Herath and Rehman, which is more than enough to roll up the overrated Indian batting lineup.

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (November 28, 2012, 1:56 GMT)

Why is it everytime a journalist write about an English player being the best ENGLAND has produced, someone has to come in here and comment on how they are not the WORLD's best??? PLEASE PEOPLE...LEARN TO READ!

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (November 28, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

Swann has a great cricketing brain and can outsmart any batsman on any given day. On the other hand Monty has the perfect physical attributes of what a great spinner needs, tall, huge hands, fluid action. They make a perfect couple!

Posted by   on (November 28, 2012, 1:35 GMT)

Boss wait for next games, this spinner will be looking general. Agree, they did well in last test.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (November 27, 2012, 21:44 GMT)

Phenomenal to see the change in England, they now boast the world's top two spinners who, and with no competition elsewhere in the world to speak of, are reigning supreme as the exciting English Spin-Duo. Swanny and Monty have re-written the history books in terms of England's performances in India and England's batsmen have turned around their reputation of playing spin. And Cook has shown the world it's best opening batsman, forcing all true cricket lovers to contrast between a hundred scored on a crumbling minefield of a pithc like what he has had to score his runs on this series, and a hundred scored on the flat-decked 'tennis-ball' cricket pitch like you see in Australia.

Posted by dontlikecricket on (November 27, 2012, 21:43 GMT)

@SamuelH. I am not taking about the article but some" English cricket fans" who seem to think they are the world best double act. With regards to Rehman he currently ranks 11th in Test and granted his 9 wickets came agaisnt a very weak opposition. However he has taken wickets against good opposition like SA in Pak and Middle East, Sri Lank in SL and Middle East, agaisnt WI in WI and gaisnt Kiwis in NZ. I am definitely saying that he is best spinner in the world, in my opinion Ajmal, Swan and Herath are better bowlesr then him. I cant seem to decide who is better Panaser or Rehman but there is not much difference in the quality of their spin.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 27, 2012, 19:54 GMT)

@Selassie-I (post on November 27 2012, 15:23 PM GMT): just to be clear, I'm hardly saying they (Lyon and Hauritz) are the best spin duo in the world... My post was in response to comments below saying that England should prepare turning tracks for the next home Ashes series. It's very much like something England would do, and I just want to be able to say "I told you so...".

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 27, 2012, 19:35 GMT)

This is another classic case of England's media getting carried away after just one performance. You guys will NEVER learn. If Indians do this, then we get all sorts of criticisms directed towards us and our supporters. So why this double standard ? England played well to beat India in Mumbai but that's about it. Swann and Panesar are good bowlers, but not GREAT by any means. So don't get carried away. Having both feet on the ground is most important when winning. I am looking forward to seeing the reaction of this same English media if they get beaten in Kolkata.

Posted by JG2704 on (November 27, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

@ Nutcutlet on (November 27 2012, 10:53 AM GMT) Long before I was born mate but I checked the stats etc and Eng were dominating the series so I think I was right in how much difference Monty made to the side. Nice to hear your memories though.

@ R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 27 2012, 11:54 AM GMT) I said the same re only 2 spinners. I think Lyon is certainly underrated. Re Hauritz he looked ok when he last toured England but not sure if he's still bowling all that well. Maybe one of our Oz friends can enlighten us.

Posted by AKS286 on (November 27, 2012, 19:06 GMT)

i think tredwell makes it trio.

Posted by   on (November 27, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

Just goes to show how poor England are...

Posted by liz1558 on (November 27, 2012, 17:25 GMT)

Ah now...Those two pals o' mine in fields afar, Graeme Swann and Panesar. If England win this series handsomely, it will be as big an upset as WI victory over England in 1950.

Posted by imrankhan76uk on (November 27, 2012, 17:12 GMT)

Surely they are the best spin partnership for England I have seen in my time (last 30 years or so) but I wouldnt go out and compare them to other recent Spin bowlers instead I will see Monty as in football terms "Impact Substitue". Whenever he gets a permanent run in the team he goes flat but if he is in and out of the team then he performs really well. I think he is more of a passion oriented bowler when he has to prove a point. His expressions are priceless after taking any wkt. I will try to keep this duo fresh for Ashes bcoz Ozzz are doing pretty good against Pace attack at the moment.

Posted by glance_to_leg on (November 27, 2012, 16:38 GMT)

Lovely to see spinners operating in tandem (whoever they are playing for). Emburey and Edmonds were not a patch on these two (actually Emburey must be one of the most over-rated of English bowlers, considerably less interesting than the mercurial Pocock, who should have bowled in tandem with Underwood much more). England need to have the courage to pick Monty and Swann together much more often, and to stick with Patel as an all rounder. Apart from anything else Monty and Swann are both 'characters' in what is often an increasingly bland team.

Posted by jb633 on (November 27, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

Excellent article. As a spinner myself I completley agree with your point about captains looking for reasons to take the spinners off. Playing decent level club cricket if a spinner gets hit for a six he is generally removed from the attack. If a seamer gets hit for 2 fours he will most probably be given another few overs. I have often wondered why this mindset has crept into the English game with a fear of spin bowling and I often think the visual effect of a bad ball from a spinner looks worse. For example if a spinner bowls a long hop it is at such a speed that everyone in the ground knows he has bowled a bad ball. If a seamer bowls a long half volley people shout good shot. The point is that both are balls that are easy to hit for four, only one looks worse. I often think our fear of bowling spinners is detrimental to the techniques of batsmen at a national level. Generally we do not grow up facing spin bowling but dibbly dobblies. Hopefully these two will alter our perceptions.

Posted by Sinhaya on (November 27, 2012, 16:00 GMT)

I think Swann and Panesar are the greatest English spin duo of the time I have been a cricket fan. During the time of Underwood, Laker, Lock etc I was not born or too small. What is amazing about Swann is he comes running fast and releases the ball fast getting a lot of zip more than what Murali, Warne and Ajmal. I hope Swann can bowl the doosra and then I will put him above Ajmal.

Posted by SDHM on (November 27, 2012, 15:48 GMT)

@dontlikecricket - I don't think anyone is saying they're the best double act in the world; as Hopps has stated, he is saying that this is merely perhaps the best performance in a game by a pair of England spinners. Being a Somerset fan I can shed more light on Rehman's 9-fer for you too - Taunton has been spinning this year despite the weather and it was against a fairly hapless Worcestershire batting line-up that made Ian Bell's performance against Saeed Ajmal in the UAE look assured! Nine wickets in any innings is an astonishing effort that isn't to be denigrated at all, but he wasn't fighting conditions or high quality batting.

Posted by Selassie-I on (November 27, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

@ R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 27 2012, 11:54 AM GMT) Lyon and Hauritz?? I don't think they are over rated, just rightly not rated. I see where you get your name from now... r u 4 real?

Posted by dontlikecricket on (November 27, 2012, 15:14 GMT)

According to some people English spinners are currently the best double act in the world. I have to disagree. They are definitely very high quality spinners especially Swann, however Ajmal is best, no doubt about it and Rehman is currently ranked at 11 and has also proven himslef in the English conditions. I believe he even took 9 wickets in an innings this season in a county game in typical English conditions. Also Herath is a better bowler than Panaser. I think some English fans gets over excicted and exaggerate.

Posted by 07sanjeewakaru on (November 27, 2012, 13:41 GMT)

2nd time I saw Indians capitulate to a spin twin.First time was Murali and Mendis in 2008 in SL.But this is so special as in their own backyard and also it's Eng who never had a reputation to have 2 quality spinners to rattle team like India in their backyard.Thoroughly enjoyed the variety of left and right hand combination of conventional orthodox bowling,Consistant on the throat spell of Monty and Swanny till the last man down. Expect a thriller of a series from now on..Like 2001 Aus/Ind Good luck for both teams!

Posted by challagalla on (November 27, 2012, 13:22 GMT)

Nice article Mr. Hpps. That Port of Spain match 1973 must have been something if Tony Greig bowled spin. Trinidad has always been a slow pitch , so not surprising spin worked over there. Surprised that Grieg bowled spin. That I never knew. He was in India the previous year under Tony Lewis and never bowled spin. Underwood bowled a lot with success. They had the pacers Old and Arnold, who did well. England actually won the first test and lost the next 2. The first test also saw the retirement of Sardesai for playing tennis shots. I think Arnold troubled all the Indian batsmen , no surprises there. That was a second string team and they did well in India even if they lost the series. Greig, Amis, Old, Underwood, Fletcher, Arnold and Mike Dennis all played tests for England for years. I don't remember if Knott came. India had a quartet of spinners than, who troubled all visiting sides hunting successfully in pairs. We also had Shivalkar who never played for India waiting for a chance.

Posted by SDHM on (November 27, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

@R_U_4_REAL_NICK - conversely, I feel Australians are desperate to build up Lyon when there doesn't appear to be much to build up. He is an inexperienced bowler who will get better with time, but he is virtually learning to bowl exclusively in Test cricket - it'll be tough for him. Take the final 5 sessions at Adelaide just gone for example; whilst it had hardly disintegrated to completely unplayable, there was enough turn & bounce there for him to win Australia the game. Ajmal or Swann would have won that game for their respective sides on that wicket (in fact Swann did on a similar one at that very ground in 2010) Two or three years down the line & Lyon may well do the same, but currently I'm not sure. Away from Clarke & Hussey, the batting line-up isn't too hot against spin - Punter has an awful record in India, Warner has struggled - so maybe a couple of turning wickets in the Ashes isn't such a bad idea for England. Be a brave call to back this batting line-up completely though.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 27, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

I think Lyon and Hauritz from Aus. are underrated, so if England were to prepare turners for the next Ashes series, it could really bite them in the proverbial. Clarke is awesome too, but doesn't use himself much to save his back. England are so reluctant to use two or more frontline spinners in tests, which is a real shame because it's pretty much common sense for most Asian grounds and places like Sydney. Why England didn't go to India with Swann, Panesar and Tredwell (and Patel can swing the bat as well as bowl spin) from the very start is baffling. On an end note, I always wondered why Australia didn't use both Warne and MacGill together much more often...

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 27, 2012, 10:53 GMT)

@JG2704: FYO that 1958 NZ side was desperately weak & the summer itself was dull, wet & cool (my memory hasn't failed me; I've just checked the met. record). The Kiwis had one batsman of proven Test calibre, Bert Sutcliffe & a doughty all-rounder captain, John Reid. The rest of the side contributed very, very little & were no match for a powerful England side that sensed that there was no one who could really compete with them. England would have had more of a match playing champions Surrey! All the recent series had been won with ease & England, hot favourite for the Ashes in the winter of '58-'59, sailed to Freemantle with what was widely touted as the strongest side ever to leave these shores: Statham, Trueman, Tyson, Laker, Lock, Bailey, Evans besides Cowdrey, May & Graveney & a young Ted Dexter to get 100s of runs. Then came Benaud & co! In utter & humiliating defeat (4-0), I was hooked for life! Beating India 5-0 in '59 meant nothing then: a hollow thrashing; the Ashes had gone!

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 27, 2012, 10:09 GMT)

Loved the typo: 'early-morning bets' indeed! As for the thrust of the article, it would be wonderful if Swann & Monty could go on & establish themselves as one of the great pairings of all time. Best of all, it could herald a rediscovery of the way Test & county cricket has been played through the majority of its history. I grew up in the time when every side picked two spinners because it was accepted as one of those immutable cricketing truths that whoever the two were, their effect was culmulative, mounting (best word!) a prolonged testing of patience & technique against the flighted & turning ball. If the pairing was successful, it was accepted that their haul was a joint effort, much like an opening partnership for batting. Perhaps it was the 80s WIndies who first challenged the two-spinner thinking, but that was down to a supreme battery of formidable quicks. Eng doesn't have match-winning quicks now; it's time to go the old trusted route & balance the attack. It feels right.

Posted by JG2704 on (November 27, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

Judging by the stats examples only the England v New Zealand, Headingley, 1958 was a statistically better performance by an England spin pair and looking at that series I think it was the 3rd test and Eng had won the first 2 tests heavily and I'm not sure what sort of side NZ were at the time. In this match the pair helped England turn things around from losing the 1st test by 9 wickets to winning the 2nd by 10. The pace bowlers look like their only role is to hold up an end and keeping the control. An interesting point was made on Sky re the thought of preparing turners in England for the next Ashes series. I think they underestimate Lyon but I'm not sure who Aus 2nd spinner could be in such a scenario or how easy it is to prepare turning wickets but it's certainly food for thought.

Posted by Harlequin. on (November 27, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

@frontfootlunge, might be going a bit far mate! They are good spinners, but you've got to admit that Ajmal at the very least is on par with them. Cracking article though, sent shivers down my spine!

Posted by mcsdl on (November 27, 2012, 6:49 GMT)

Indians lost 4-0 in England and was gonna take the revenge but only to lose again 3-1... what a joke of a team...!

Posted by big_al_81 on (November 27, 2012, 1:08 GMT)

I have to agree Mr Hopps, the premise of the article is proved correct by the fascinating vignettes from other eras - particularly useful for those of us who can't remember back before the 80s. Among my early memories of English spin bowling were of Eddie Hemmings being carted into the crowd several times in succession (by Kapil Dev perhaps? The arrivals of Panesar and Swann have been a joy. It's great that they finally win a test together - they should have done in the UAE but for the batting failures. And it's fitting that they share the work so fully, just as you argue. Thanks for a good article.

Posted by whoster on (November 27, 2012, 0:13 GMT)

This performance is right up there for an English spin combo. They couldn't have asked for a better pitch to bowl on, but even so, they always kept the pressure on by bowling tight and getting quick turn. They compliment each other so well, and I now sincerely hope that the selectors have learnt their lesson in bringing Panesar's batting and fielding into the equation for his selection. He's not in the team to score runs, he's in it to take wickets, and that's exactly what he did. Brilliant stuff. I hope to see a lot more of this double act - and not just on the subcontinent.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 23:26 GMT)

Would love to see England play to their strengths and keep two spinners in the side next summer. Why can't Prior bat at 6, followed by Broad/Bresnan, Swann at 8, Anderson, Finn, Panesar?

Granted it's unlikely to be conducive to spin bowling in the two early season tests against NZ but by the time the Ashes start in July the wickets should suit spin, barring another summer as wet as this year's.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (November 26, 2012, 23:18 GMT)

Swann and Panesar reign supreme as the best two spinners in the world. Having proved superior to India's spinners, and with no other competition from anywhere else in the world to speak of, they are the English lethal-twosome! Take a bow gentlemen.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 26, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

david h. on sky they were talking about the type of wickets to prepare next ashes. with both spinners been selected in some or all 5 tests. i believe if they did they would beat the aussies more easily than we can beat them conventional by 3 quicks and 1 spinner. to think we would go down that avenue i find hard to believe. in saffar land the wickets are so heavily in favour of the home sides quicks its unbelievable, of the 4 top nations only eng and aus prepare good quality pitches that does not give the side winning the toss that great of advantage.

Posted by Zippydidodah on (November 26, 2012, 22:29 GMT)

It was an excellent performance, and might well be one of the great spin partnerships for England, but that doesn't mean much, as England doesn't often have more than one spinner in the team.

it would have been good to extend the scope of the article to compare them to great spin partnerships from any team, even the conclusion is that its a good one, rather than "the greatest". It could then have focussed more on spinners from the modern era, rather than ones from the 1950s, with uncovered pitches and the like.

Posted by haq33 on (November 26, 2012, 22:16 GMT)

The praise aimed at these two isn't off the mark at all. They have huge potential over the next few years. England need to quit fooling around now and seize the initiative. They have found a formidable duo almost by happenstance it seems. Teach at least one of these guys the doosra and I think they will become arguably the best spin partnership in the world, definitely once Ajmal retires. But if they cannot or will not learn the doosra, then they will get found out by better players of spin such as the Aussies. It was the same with reverse swing - the English took too long to realise its match-winning potential and then when they finally did unleash a battery of reverse swingers, they promptly rose to no.1 in the rankings. If these 2 guys bowl doosras and the batsmen fire, not even the Aussies could stop England.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 26, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

By the way David, nice article and a good read. There hasn't been too many spin twins for England in the past few decades but even compared to England's 2 all time greatest Laker & Lock, this has to be right up there.

Posted by Trickstar on (November 26, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

@Milhouse79 Come on then why is it cringeworthy, I''m usually the first to pick up on such things but there's nothing wrong with this. For the most part England have been very poor at spin bowling very decades, so it's not much of a stretch when he says 'produced the greatest England spin double act of modern times. Perhaps of all time.' and when you look further, like he says when 20 wickets were taken before only Laker contributed, the second time was against NZ who have never been India when it comes to playing spin. So I ask what's wrong with what he's wrote, yes he's bigged their performance up but why shouldn't he, it was amazing especially when we're playing against some of best players of spin in the world. What does it matter if the duo don't play regularly together, theirs no need in most countries is there. What are these wild claims, or are you seriously under estimating how good this performance rates against the others, they're there in front of you to compare.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (November 26, 2012, 21:15 GMT)

It was certainly impressive,and I am slightly surprised it could be seen as the best ever match for an English pair,given how the game was played in the 1880's/90's. Personally I could watch that regularly. I hope they do it again before we go back to seamer friendly conditions. They are such different bowlers so the questions posed must cover quite a .And getting Sachin twice in a game is really mighty.

Posted by   on (November 26, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

@Milhouse79. I know it must be hard to read and cringe and fire off instant comments all at the same time but you obviously haven't got the hang of what the piece says - that it can be argued it is the best performance in history IN A SINGLE MATCH by a pair of England spinners in tandem. What has happened before or what may happen since is totally irrelevant.

Posted by Jaffa79 on (November 26, 2012, 20:41 GMT)

Oh come on! Even as an England fan I find this article cringworthy. They have only played 7 tests together over 4 years! They bowled well in the subcontinent but not enough success to make such wild claims. I doubt that they'll bowl together again for a few years after Christmas.

Posted by bumsonseats on (November 26, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

i find the indian captains thinking that the 3rd/4th test wickets to be the same pretty surreal. he asked and got a spinners wicket that was already 4 days old before day 1 of the last test started.they did all the things a team asks for in winning the toss then wastes that advantage. a normal indian wicket which may spin a little on days 1/2/3 then turn big time which can be the normal on most indian wickets is the way to go. then back their batters or bowlers on days 4/5 to get more of their home contitions is for me the way to go. i feel the next test england could be at their strongest if finn for broad and bell back for bluey. then i hope we can win the next 2 tosses. easy game is cricket from the benefit of an armchair. lol

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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