Spinners have to deal with expectation – Cook
Alastair Cook has hinted that England will make a couple of changes, particularly to their bowling attack, ahead of the second Test against Bangladesh.
England wrapped up a 22-run victory within 20 minutes on the fifth morning in Chittagong but Cook, the England captain, suggested they will use the final Test of the series to provide an opportunity for other members of the squad to gain experience ahead of the five-Test series in India that awaits.
“I’m pretty sure there will be some changes,” Cook said. “If we play the same side early on in the tour, we could have a lot of guys with not much cricket under their belts coming into a crucial Test a bit further down the line. We were clear before we came out here that we would rotate, so I’d imagine there might be a couple of changes.
Cook made a point of saying that they would be rotating players rather than dropping them, “It’s certainly more about rotation. In an ideal world we don’t want to get to India with people having not played much cricket. There are some fine players who didn’t make this team and, with how hot it is and energy levels, to not be playing all seven Test matches will freshen things up. It’s certainly more on the bowling side to start with.”
With Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali looking hard to leave out – they give the side its depth and balance – England may be tempted to rest Stuart Broad, who has now played 99 Tests, and Chris Woakes, while they would also like to give a game to the left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari if possible.
While Cook admitted there were times he would have “loved to have the fourth spinner” in his side, he also expressed his contentment with the current balance of the team and suggested Bangladesh’s batsmen in general look a little more comfortable against spin than seam. Certainly it was noticeable that, on the final morning at Chittagong with the game in the balance, Cook put his trust in two seamers who he knew would relish the heat of battle. Broad’s spell, continued from overnight, may well represent his best bowling display in Asia, while Stokes was named Man of the Match for his skill, maturity and persistence with bat and ball.
While it does not reflect brilliantly upon England’s spinners that they were not trusted to bowl on a fifth-day pitch that turned from the first ball of the match, it was England’s seamers who offered Cook control throughout the match and whose ability to gain reverse-swing unlocked the Bangladesh batting in both innings.
“We’d have loved to have the fourth spinner when it was turning,” Cook said. “But Bangladesh are used to these conditions. They play spin very well.
“It’s nice having that extra seamer for our side. When it does reverse you can keep the pressure on for longer. If you do go double seam like we did after tea on day four for the first half an hour, we didn’t go anywhere but then you’ve got the option of bowling another seamer. It just suits us at the moment. But, yes, there was a time when I was thinking I’d love another spinner. But you can’t have everything can you?”
The performance of England’s spinners was intriguing. Moeen took at least three of his wickets with what might reasonably be termed ‘magic’ deliveries and showed he has the pace and the skill to prosper in these conditions. But he was also the most expensive spinner in the match – he went at 3.75 runs per over – and will know he has to tighten up if he is going to prove effective in India. Adil Rashid, meanwhile, bowled some fine deliveries but struggled with his length and looked a little off the pace in the field. Gareth Batty, meanwhile, relished the battle and was probably the most consistent of England’s spinners. While there were moments he looked a little slow for the conditions, this was generally an impressive return to Test cricket.
“The spinners bowled pretty well,” Cook said. “It’s a different mentality when the ball spins like that. Very quickly the expectation goes on to the spinners and you think ‘oh you must take wickets’. I thought they handled themselves very well despite being a young spin attack in terms of Test experience. We maybe missed length a little bit too much and maybe let the pressure off, but I genuinely believe they will get better.”
While there were few runs from the top-order batsmen, Cook felt they encountered conditions at their most difficult. So while Gary Ballance looks vulnerable at No. 4 and there might be some logic in resting Jonny Bairstow – who enjoyed an excellent game standing up to the spinners – to provide an opportunity for Jos Buttler to gain some experience with the gloves in these conditions, it does appear England will persist with the same batting line-up.
“Scoring runs on that wicket was a real credit to us as a side,” he said. “They were as tough batting conditions as I can remember, certainly early on and against spin. But we’ve managed to score enough runs to win the game and then take 20 wickets as well. I was pleased with our performance. Was it the best performance? No. But it was a start and it’s better winning these games and moving on. We showed a lot of character.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo