Expect 'short-term pain' over spin - Bayliss
Trevor Bayliss, the England coach, has said he would not be afraid to pick two spinners for future Test matches despite the poor returns of the slow bowlers against Pakistan in the UAE and suggested short-term struggles may have to be accepted for the greater good of English spin.
England used three spinners in the Test series - Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Samit Patel (plus a little of Joe Root and one over from Ben Stokes) - and their 20 wickets came at an average of 60.01, the third most-expensive series ever for a collection of England spinners in Asia.
After Rashid claimed 5 for 64 in the second innings in Abu Dhabi, Bayliss said how he believed he could play in a variety of conditions - not just spin-friendly circumstances - although following that haul Rashid took three wickets for 329 to finish his first Test series with eight scalps at 69.50.
It would seem unlikely that England will use two main spinners at any point during the series in South Africa, which starts on Boxing Day, and it is also a rare combination to be seen in home matches. However, next winter there are series in India and Bangladesh and Bayliss knows that players only get better by having experience in the middle.
"We'll look at the conditions and team we are playing, their strengths and weaknesses," he said. "I wouldn't have any problem at all playing two spinners against an opposition we thought were weaker against spin than pace. If that means we play an inexperienced spinner because of it, well that's how they get experience - by playing. If that means we have a bit of short-term pain for a bit of long-term gain then so be it."
Bayliss did not hide from the fact that the spinners had been disappointing throughout the series against Pakistan, especially in Sharjah where, even with a modicum of control, the efforts of James Anderson and Stuart Broad may not have gone to waste.
"I think we've got the three best spinners here at the moment. I'm sure they're a little disappointed as well, especially this Test match," he said. "I thought we probably bowled a few too many full-tosses, long-hops and half-volleys in this match - which is unusual.
"But having said that, for three inexperienced bowlers, it's not easy bowling against some of the best batters against spin in the world. That does put extra pressure on you. Then having to perform, and put the ball on the spot, under that type of pressure is something they're going to have to become accustomed to. They're going to have to work it out, and get better in those circumstances."
Focusing on Rashid, Bayliss sees the potential of a long-term Test career but acknowledged that there was a lot of hard work ahead and no "free ride".
"He's taken a five-wicket haul, he's batted extremely well, he's fitted into the team off the field extremely well. If it was against another team that wasn't as good against spin the results might have been a lot better. It's a tough initiation against these guys, the way they play spin bowling. That's not taking away from the fact he has some improvements to make, some things to work on, and it will be hard work, it's not going to be an easy free ride for him."
While Bayliss has to maintain a focus on the immediate future for England, starting with the ODIs against Pakistan which begin on November 11 in Abu Dhabi followed by the T20s and then the Test series in South Africa, he was well aware of the challenges facing the development of young spinners. Andy Flower, the former England coach who is now technical director of elite coaching at the ECB, has called on counties to play their role with more conducive pitches, and Bayliss said that if England want to lift themselves from No.6 in the Test rankings it was non-negotiable that they needed improved spin resources.
"I've only been in England three months but there's always talk of the type of wickets not being conducive to spin, captains that can use spin bowlers in the right ways. There are a number of areas that we can make improvements going forward … but the simple fact is if we want to be the best Test team in the world then we have to have two or three top-line spinners."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo