Cricket

England not breaking sweat over spin challenge


ENGLAND TOUR OF SRI LANKA 2018

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England’s batting has found a new approach that is successful but will need to adapt in slower conditions of Sri Lanka © AFP

Just a few years ago, it would have been a folly for an England player to claim that his side was the best in the world at playing spin in one-day cricket. But now, the claim, made by Joe Root ahead of the second ODI in Dambulla on Saturday, is not so fanciful.

England average over 50 runs per wicket against spin in one-day cricket since the last World Cup and they have several players, Root, captain Eoin Morgan, and Jos Buttler who are amongst the finest players of spin going.

Although they have had problems along the way, notably against New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi last winter and India’s Kuldeep Yadav during the summer, they have largely been able to adapt quickly enough to succeed. After Yadav took 6 for 25 in the first ODI at Trent Bridge, England responded with two thumping victories, limiting the left-arm wrist-spinner to three wickets at a cost of more than six runs an over.

England’s strong recent showings against spin haven’t been confined to home conditions where fast-bowlers generally find more assistance. Since the last World Cup, in Asia, England have scored runs against spin at almost six runs an over and lost a wicket, on average, just under every ten overs.

It makes impressive reading and Root knows their ability to play spin will surely be tested by Sri Lanka during the rest of this tour. “As a team, our record against spin is right up there, if not the best in the world, over the last couple of years,” Root said. “This is another opportunity to show everyone how good we are against spin and to perform well on these surfaces.”

According to CricViz, England are actually playing less attacking shots since the 2015 World Cup than they did in the series against Sri Lanka in 2014 but they are executing far better now. It is also a batting order that has clearly defined roles for each player. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow are tasked with getting England off to fliers and have scored at better than a run-a-ball in the last three and a half years.

In contrast, Root and Morgan have an important role at numbers three and four, rebuilding if the openers fail to come off at the top of the order and keeping things ticking over in the middle overs. The pair have scored at 5.47 and 5.74 runs an over respectively since the last World Cup, according to CricViz, and against spin in away conditions, Root understands that England may at times need to sit in rather than continue all-out attack.

“To do that [perform well] it’s important to understand the rhythm of batting here is very different to back home. The way we structure setting a target or chasing one down might be very different to how we go about it at home.

“The way we approach cricket in ODIs is very different to the last time we toured here [in 2014]. The way we naturally play will always put bowlers under pressure, whether that’s against seam or spin. We’ve done it in the majority of places throughout the world, but can we do it here on spinning surfaces?”

Sri Lanka are likely to pick three spinners in their side for the second game in Dambulla and their captain, Dinesh Chandimal has suggested that the home side have more mystery in their spin attack than the visitors. Given Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have taken 61 wickets between them in 20 games this year, Root is not so sure England’s spinners suffer anything in comparison.

“I think Rash [Rashid] would be a bit disappointed by saying there’s no mystery about how he bowls,” Root added. “He has a few tricks in his bag and I’m sure you’ll see that on these surfaces. Every bowler you’ve never faced before is mystery, because you don’t know what you’re going to get.

“You can get yourself out by talking yourself out. Most importantly you prepare, watch the footage, see how they operate and go and play accordingly.”

Although Sri Lanka opened with two fast-bowlers in the first match, there is a chance they might opt to throw the new ball to off-spinner Akila Danajaya on Saturday after his dismissal of Jason Roy in the opening game. Although the England opener’s record against spin is not as strong as the rest of the top order, he says he will not be phased by whatever the home team do.

“It’s not anything new,” Roy said. “Other teams have tried to do that in the past, it’s the way the game is. But I was not really surprised they didn’t open with a spinner [in the first match].

“I know I got out to a spinner [Dananjaya] in the powerplay but it’s a pretty risky technique, especially if the ball might be swinging. It is something we have been working on in the nets. The first thing I face is spin so I am ready for whatever they throw at me.”

© Cricbuzz

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