Pak v Eng, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 2nd day October 14, 2015

Rashid endures the most taxing of debuts

Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid suffered the most unrewarding innings in Test history for a spin bowling combination as Pakistan milked them unforgivingly on a placid surface
14

Play 01:27
'Rashid was never going to be a holding bowler'

In the 144th over of Pakistan's innings, as tea approached on the second day, Ben Stokes marked out his run. But it wasn't his normal run. He briefly tossed the ball from hand to hand, pointed a few fielders in various directions and sent down an over of offspin - just his second in first-class cricket.

He was the fourth spinner used by England. While not quite a white flag, it certainly was not the Plan A, B or even C that England had spoken about before the series. Stokes has worked on his offspin in the nets from time to time - "mucking around more than anything," he said - but he can hardly have envisaged needing it on the second day of a Test match.

When Misbah-ul-Haq declared on 523 for 8 - after Stokes had collected three quick wickets with his normal style of seam-up - England's spin attack of Rashid, Moeen Ali , Joe Root and Stokes solitary over had collective figures of none for 302. Quite how to measure the worst of something in cricket is often up for debate, but this was the most expensive wicketless analysis for a spin attack in an innings in Test history, beating South Africa's none for 273 against Sri Lanka, in Colombo, in 2006.

In mitigation, spin in the first innings when Australia and New Zealand bowled here last year amounted to 3 for 585. It might also be wise to hold full judgement until Pakistan - minus Yasir Shah - have tried to bowl out England with Zulfiqar Babar and Shoaib Malik their spinners. Still, the innings was as barren for England's slow bowlers as the landscape that stretches towards the horizon in this region.

Feeling the pain the most was Adil Rashid as he finished with none for 163, the most expensive figures by a bowler who's gone wicketless on debut. At least the man he knocked off the top spot will understand the feeling. Bryce McGain, the Australian legspinner, ended with 18-2-149-0 in his only innings against South Africa, at Cape Town, in 2009.

Rashid, whether in this match or in the subsequent matches, should get another chance at least to open his wicket account, but as far as the first innings was concerned this was another chapter in a tough history for English legspin.

Since Eric Hollies, the man who removed Don Bradman for the most famous duck in history, finished his 13-Test career (which was interrupted by World War 2) with 44 wickets at 30.27 - relative riches for English legspin - a varied cast have tried without much success or longevity.

Moeen Ali was part of a spin attack that set an unwanted record Gareth Copley / © Getty Images

Peter Smith played four Tests, Roly Jenkins nine, Tommy Greenhough four. Robin Hobbs had seven matches and then it was a 21-year gap to Ian Salisbury followed by the fleeting appearances of Chris Schofield and Scott Borthwick.

Now there is Rashid. Twice he has come close to a Test debut. Against West Indies, in Barbados, the selectors weren't confident to throw him in on a pitch that demanded two spinners (even though Moeen was struggling) and then at Lord's, against Australia, there was a finger injury that has never quite been satisfactorily explained when, again, there was some doubt over Moeen. This sort of debut performance may have happened in either of those two matches, but the odds would have been slightly more in Rashid's favour.

Given the dominance of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, Rashid was only the sixth spinner of any variety to debut for England since 2008 after James Tredwell, Samit Patel, Borthwick, Simon Kerrigan and Moeen. Tredwell could always land it on a length, Patel was there as a third spinner, Borthwick took some tap but at least claimed four wickets and Moeen had a stellar first season.

For Kerrigan and Rashid their debuts have been painful, but whereas Kerrigan's was ended by a brutal onslaught from Shane Watson at The Oval in 2013, Rashid had to face the unrelenting accumulation of three Pakistan batsmen. A little like pulling of a plaster off slowly rather than ripping it away.

Was it as bad as it looks on the scorecard? It is difficult to pick too many positives from his 34 overs, but there was a spell on the second day when he switched to around the wicket and started to pose a few questions for Pakistan's batsmen to suggest he could be a threat with a little more in his favour.

He made one bounce on Asad Shafiq and the glove fell short of slip. Another zipped past the shoulder of the bat and two balls later Shoaib Malik received a similar delivery. But he could not open that wicket tally. Salisbury's final Test wicket was a slog to deep midwicket by Inzamam-ul-Haq in Faisalabad in 2000; Rashid would have taken that.

Pakistan played him very shrewdly, as you would have expected, to put pressure on him. On the opening day Mohammad Hafeez quickly used his feet; neither him nor Shoaib Malik missed out on the full toss and all the batsmen were sharp to pick his length, using his slowness through the air - averaging under 50mph - to despatch him regularly off the back foot.

"It was his debut so we didn't want him to get settled," Shafiq said. "We started off with singles and then hit the odd boundaries so that he couldn't."

It really was a baptism of fire in the sweltering heat. More than once Rashid would stand there in his follow through, hands on hips and let out a sharp intake of breath. There was one moment where he almost slumped in the crease as Malik, having taken consecutive balls for four and six to push Rashid's tally beyond McGain, lofted one just out of reach of Jonny Bairstow at mid-off.

The difficulty for Cook was compounded by Moeen, his senior spinner, conceding four an over against masters of milking spin. Control only came from the quicks, who were impressive in the conditions, taking 8 for 196 between them, but if two spinners are not taking wickets on pitches such as these - and Rashid's role was never going to be one of economy - it is a major problem if they both go at over four runs.

The last time England went through a similar era of trying to find a spinner, at the turn of the millennium, post Phil Tufnell and pre Swann and Panesar, they turned to Ashley Giles. He did a superb job for five years, not least on the 2000-01 tour of Pakistan when he gave Nasser Hussain priceless economy while chipping out vital wickets - none more so than Inzamam on the penultimate day in Karachi. It is not exciting to call for a spinner who can provide control, but it is practical.

The ECB are trying to do something about the situation. It will take time. There could be more innings like this, even in the next couple of weeks. Talk of playing some county cricket in the UAE is, in part, designed to encourage spin development. Performance squads have been based in India, Sri Lanka and next month in Dubai.

Daniel Vettori, a template for a spinner who had no special tricks but was brilliant at his job, will work with the young spinners who are hoped to be part of a brighter spin future for England. Rashid can still be part of that future, but this has been a chastening start.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jason on October 15, 2015, 10:21 GMT

    @annoyedofit, the difference is that the pitches in england all produced results 2 pitches (lords and the oval) were suited to the Aussie bowling attack while 3 were suited to the english bowling attack.

    This pitch looks just docile and flat, much like trent bridge 2014.

  • annoyed on October 15, 2015, 7:00 GMT

    @NUTCUTLET, oh dear what was it that English told the Australians about whinging about the pitches?

  • D on October 15, 2015, 6:44 GMT

    If Rashid can "let out a sharp intake of breath", there must be hope that he can one day serve up a brilliantly convincing googly.

  • ian on October 15, 2015, 5:54 GMT

    Pitches like this do no service to Test cricket. It is up to the ICC ( HQ in Dubai, just down the road) to ensure that these UAE pitches do not conform to the sun-baked sterility that characterises the mushroom growth of all that is on offer in the Emirates. The pitch needs relaying. it has been over-prepared, rolled to death. Rashid cannot be judged, let alone dismissed, on this graveyard. Meanwhile, another nail is hammered into the coffin of Test cricket. Over to you, ICC. With all your billions, surely you can do better than this!

  •   Cricinfouser on October 15, 2015, 4:17 GMT

    I just hope Rashid has the strength of character to come through this harrowing experience. England will survive this test, Babar is effective, but no match winner like Yasir is.

  •   Ghalib Imtiyaz on October 15, 2015, 3:40 GMT

    People tend to forget that Adil Rashid went for runs and bowled well in ODIs vs NZ and Australia. Even Shane Warne was milked around for 152 runs in his debut test matches. Yasir Shah is an exceptional bowler with limited Test match experience but who else is bowling well in UAE. Pakistan amassed 500+ runs in their first innings 3 out of 4 times so why is anyone surprised ? They missed Ansari who could open and bowl well ... English bowling was mediocre regardless and wickets they managed later were gifted to them. They have to bat well to save this match. Yasir Shah is not available to torment them so they will survive this match.

  • Michael on October 14, 2015, 21:23 GMT

    Rashid has over 400 f/c wickets and many of those at Headingley-hardly a leggies paradise. Another legspinner went many a mile in his debut Test and a few more afterwards until he suddenly clicked and and settled down to take 703 in total in Tests. The doubters may doubt and the haters can hate, but lets see what happens first before condemning Rashid to a future colder than a butcher refrigeration unit. Surely to God the ODI's of the summer are not that far behind us!

  • Nicholas on October 14, 2015, 20:35 GMT

    This series was pronounced over for England as soon as the squad was announced, if not even before. Whereas probably every other cricketing nation would have brought at least one left-arm seamer just to add some variety, and taken a punt on at least one other new spinner, we filled our squad with samey right-arm seamers and clung on to the belief that Ali could become a feared spinner. Add to the recipe now that a seamer I had high hopes for (Finn-knee) has been ruled out (and replaced by Jordan), and the Rashid experiment (which I'm in support of) hasn't gone to plan, this is shaping up to be an abysmal, boring series for England. I don't agree that the likes of Panesar and Tredwell were/are the answer though. The former has blown his chances of ever being considered again, and the latter is a short-format specialist who, despite being our best white ball bowler, isn't even considered for that anymore. The kitchen's bare ma...! ECB: call me asap :-)

  • John on October 14, 2015, 20:31 GMT

    All you Yorks fans who have wanted Rashid to start of Ali, now you see the reason why after all is said and done, Ali is still England's #1 spinner? He may not be in the same class as Swann or even Monty for that matter but he IS still England's best spin option. Yes the cupboard is bare....we've been spoiled for a decade with Monty then Swann....get use to it!!!! I think Ali is fine as a servicable spinner. We cannot expect him to perform to the level of Swann who is once in a generation type of bowler. Much like Jimmy when he retires we cannot expect whoever replaces him to be like JA. Don;t like Aussies who are still looking for the next Shane Warne...there is only 1 Shane Warne just like there will only be 1 Graeme Swann!