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Can Saqlain arrest England's spin woes?

In the era of leaving no stone unturned in terms of coaching support, it is an oddity - or even an oversight - that the England Test side has not had a dedicated spin-bowling coach since Mushtaq Ahmed left in early 2014.

It is not that by having someone around the squad, they will magically emerge with a match-winning spinner. As Trevor Bayliss said earlier this week "we have to work with what we've got", and there's also the argument that the place for intensive coaching is not around the Test set-up, but in terms of mentoring, guidance and a sounding board it could hardly hurt at a time where England are thin in spin resources.

For this week - and that is all it is for now - Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistan offspinner, is with the England side at Old Trafford as they aim to level the series against his countrymen. If he fits in well, it could well lead to a longer-term deal for the winter series' in Bangladesh (if it goes ahead) and India. On the evidence of Lord's, both the facing and bowling of spin will stretch England to their limits.

While Mushtaq was fortunate to work with England at a time when they had two of their finest spinners - Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar - and therefore his impact may have appeared greater, the reverse argument can apply to Saqlain; in the few days he has been around the side, he can't be expected to transform Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid into world-beaters.

But he may be able to impart something that makes a difference. It is telling that one of the key pieces of advice that aided Moeen in his first season of Test cricket - when he helped secure the series win over India in 2014 - was after a conversation with umpire Kumar Dharmasena in the nets, when the former Sri Lanka spinner told him to grasp his pocket with his non-bowling arm to impart the required pace for international cricket. Sometimes little tips can make all the difference when there are raw skills to work with, which is clearly the case with Moeen and Rashid.

Saqlain is the second overseas guest coach to be used since Andrew Strauss took on his role at the head of English cricket following the use of Mahela Jayawardene in the UAE and during the World T20. The onus of Jayawardene's time was on the playing of spin for the batsmen, but Saqlain's expertise does not have to be restricted to Moeen and Rashid as England search for a way to combat Yasir Shah on a ground where five of the last seven five-wicket hauls in Tests have been taken by spinners.

"You've got to use the knowledge of the people you're lucky enough to have come in and work with you," Ben Stokes said. "From the batsmen, the questions he'll probably get asked are: 'Who are the best players you bowled at, and how did they go about it?'

"It would be silly if the batsmen didn't try to get anything out of him, pick his brains and ask how the guys who were successful against him played."

Saqlain's first spell in an England training top, however, was alongside Rashid in a one-on-one session on the Old Trafford square, appearing to use his mobile phone to take some ad-hoc footage (unless he was catching Pokemon). Conflicting views abounded as to whether that meant Rashid was more or less likely to be playing in the Test, but he fizzed a few legbreaks on a pitch adjacent to the Test surface. Later in the session, after a spell in the nets, Saqlain returned to the middle this time with Moeen and then the pair of spinners spent a stint together, eventually with Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps.

There are factors in Rashid's favour when it comes to the chances of a call-up for a first home Test, either as a replacement for Moeen or as a second spinner. His record at the ground in first-class cricket is healthy - 29 wickets in five matches at 23.48 with four five-wicket hauls - and he also bowled well here in one of the two ODIs against Australia last year, taking 2 for 41 as he and Moeen combined with five wickets.

There is a strong link to Old Trafford for Saqlain as well. In 2001, he helped bowl Pakistan to a dramatic final-day victory when England had appeared set for a draw: from 174 for 1 they were bowled out for 261 late in the final session in a match that became remembered for a raft of missed no-balls on the last afternoon, although the overstepping did not change the fact that his spin befuddled England.

Five years later, England were the winners by a vast margin of an innings and 120 runs. Steve Harmison took 11 wickets - after Pakistan had prepared for Manchester's bounce by practicing on marble slabs - and Monty Panesar eight on a pitch offering considerable pace. Any margin of victory will suffice for England over the next few days, and this time Saqlain will be hoping to help, even if only a little.