Looking Ahead To The Ashes: Spinners

A look ahead to the Ashes tour that will end a very hectic year for England, with a particular focus on the spin bowling aspect. Also some photographs.

At the end of this year, after two more tests in India plus a busy home summer, England head to Australia for what Huw Turbervill in a book of that name called “The Toughest Tour” – an away Ashes series. With nothing else of significance happening in the cricket world today I am going to look ahead to that tour, and in what will be a long piece show what England should do spinners wise.

THE IMPORTANCE OF LEFT ARM SLOW TO MEDIUM PACED BOWLERS

Only once in all of England’s successful tours has the party not included a left arm bowler in the slow to medium pace bracket, the very first ever in 1882-3. In 1884-5 and 1887-8 and again in 1894-5 two left arm orthodox spinners in Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs were present and both were test regulars during those tours. In 1903-4 Wilfred Rhodes, another left arm orthodox spinner, was a key performer, including a 15 wicket match haul at Melbourne (with eight catches dropped off him into the bargain!) In 1911-2 the bowling was largely dominated by Frank Foster and Syd Barnes, but Frank Woolley, an all rounder whose bowling stock-in-trade was left arm orthodox spin was far from insignificant. In 1928-9, JC ‘Farmer’ White, a left arm orthodox spinner was crucial to England’s success, bowling huge numbers of overs (130 across the two innings of the Adelaide match alone), going at around two an over and taking a good haul of wickets. In 1932-3, although Harold Larwood was the dominant bowling force, Hedley Verity, a left arm orthodox spinner played in four of the five test matches and skipper Jardine was at pains in his own book about that tour, “In Quest of The Ashes” to emphasize his importance to England. In 1954-5 Tyson and Statham were the dominant bowlers, but Johnny Wardle a left arm spinner who could bowl either orthodox or wrist spin (although Hutton’s conservatism as captain meant he was largely confined to the former on that tour) took 10 wickets at 22.9 a piece in a support role. In 1970-1 John Snow was England’s key bowler, but Derek Underwood bowling left arm slow-medium with cut rather than spin as his principle weapon was an important part of the supporting cast. In 1978-9 Philippe-Henri Edmonds, left arm orthodox spin, had a bust up with skipper Brearley and did not play any test matches, with the spinning roles entrusted for those games to Emburey and Miller. In 1986-7 Edmonds was there again in partnership with Emburey and was very important to England’s success, snagging the prize scalp of Border five times in the series. In 2010-11 England used off spinner Graeme Swann in a holding role, in which he took 15 wickets at 39 a piece, but only went for 2.5 an over, while left arm orthodox spinner Monty Panesar was kept on the sidelines, although he was part of the tour party. England have not won down under since that tour.

In 1946-7 England lacked a test class left arm slow to medium bowler, and at one point in that series Bill Voce, left arm fast medium, was asked to attempt orthodox spin as England were getting desperate – scoreline Aus 3, Eng 1, 1 high scoring draw (Morris for Aus and Compton for Eng notching a brace of centuries a piece in that one at Adelaide). In 1962-3 three off spinners were selected in the tour party and no one else who could bowl high class spin (Barrington’s leg breaks would have been the next highest ranking spin option), and England drew the series, not enough to get the Ashes back. In 1982-3 once again three off spinners carried the slow bowling burden – Marks, Miller and Hemmings, with only Hemmings selected purely on the basis of his bowling, and ironically he would produce the highest individual score any of the three managed in the series – 95 in the final match at Sydney as nightwatchman, and England lost the series after having won three successive Ashes contests, and they were to win the next two after it as well.

Thus, there have been only three occasions on which England have won down under without a left arm slow to medium pace bowler playing for them in at least some test matches, and only once, in 1882-3 when they have done so without such a bowler in the party.

Therefore, a bowler of that type can be considered necessary. Jack Leach, left arm orthodox spin, now has 56 wickets from 14 test matches at an average of 30.37, and is obviously improving, so he has to be first pick for a spinner’s berth in the tour party assuming he is fit to play. There are few obvious like for like substitutes for him, but Liam Patterson-White if he plays a full season and does well (at the moment after five first class games he has a bowling average at that level of 21.00) could well be a strong candidate, and Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spinner who can also bat, has had a good Under 19 World Cup and has fared well in the few senior games (all T20s) that he has been given. I hope he gets a full season this summer, and maybe if he performs brilliantly he will merit a place in the tour party. The person with the best first class average among English spinners who have played more than a handful of matches at that level is leg spinner Matt Parkinson, and I would think he should travel as designated second spinner, although only Sydney and Adelaide of Australian venues are remotely likely to produce surfaces justifying the selection of two specialist spinners.

1932-3: A TEMPLATE FOR SUCCESS IN THE 21ST C.

In 1932-3 England travelled with a battery of pace bowlers, two specialist spinners (Verity, left arm orthodox, and Tommy Mitchell, leg spin). They won the series 4-1, with Verity playing in four of the matches (nos 1,3,4 and 5). Mitchell was a less significant figure but what he was asked to do he did well. Incidentally, the one match Verity was not selected for demonstrates that Australia were not the innocent victims they like the world to believe that they were in that series: the pitch for the state game (yes, young folk, back in the day touring teams played matches against local first class sides as well as international fixtures) at Melbourne had been super fast, so when the second test was played there Jardine left Verity out to play a full battery of pace bowlers, Bill Bowes coming in for the only time of the series. On the first morning a delivery from Harold Larwood broke through the rolled top surface of the pitch and raised a puff of dust. By the fourth innings the pitch was turning square and Ironmonger (left arm orthodox spin) and O’Reilly (leg spin) were basically unplayable.

A standard England attack in Australia with their current resources could feature two out of Archer, Stone and Wood, one of Anderson and Broad, and Leach as the spin option, with Woakes also in the equation if one wants to avoid an overly long tail. In the unlikely event of a pitch requiring two specialist spinners Parkinson would come in for one of the quicker bowlers.

I will be keeping an eye out over the coming home season for Lewis Goldsworthy and Liam Patterson-White among others to see if they can genuinely force their way into the equation, but at the moment it is hard to see anyone other than Leach as first choice spinner in Australia, with Parkinson designated second spinner. I will make on cautionary remark in the context of Goldsworthy, and also the young opener Tom Lammonby who may well be in the reckoning if he has a second straight good season: if you are going to select people so early in their careers for international tours they will need careful management – Brian Close was selected for the 1950-1 Ashes tour when not much more than a boy and badly mishandled on that tour, setting his career back years.

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My attention was drawn earlier today to calls being made on the government to support Eurostar, the most climate friendly means of travelling between this country and continental Europe. You can sign and share by clicking here, and below is the infographic that accompanies the text on wearepossible:

Now for my usual sign off. I had to put in a prescription request, and used the longer, parkland route home, as it being half term the schools were closed.

Author: Thomas

I am branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk and #actuallyautistic (diagnosed 10 years ago at the comparatively advanced age of 31). I am a keen photographer, so that most of my own posts contain photos. I am a keen cricket fan and often write about that subject. I also focus a lot on politics and on nature.

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