Why England Test Side Should Take Spin More Seriously


The England test side has always been ill-managed, due to the way in which the English game is still handcuffed by an elitist mentality and the nepotism that comes with it.

Nowhere is this more so the case than in the selection of England’s frontline bowling attack, which for years now has had Anderson and Broad etched at the top of it no matter what the conditions are that a series is due to be played under.

While there can be no doubting the skills of both Anderson and Broad, it has been somewhat puzzling over the last decade to see other less able fast-medium bowlers preferred over promising spin options.

Here we argue for why that needs to change, especially if England are ever to stamp their authority when they go on tour.

Greatness is Earned Abroad, Not at Home

When an international team plays the majority of its games on home turf, where conditions favour swing and pace bowling, it can often be seen as the safe choice to pack the bowling attack with quicks, so as to keep the home bookmakers and fans happy.

Certainly, that has been the case since the days of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann – arguably England’s last two world class spinners who operated regularly at test level – as the England selectors have always gone for line-ups that complement Anderson, Broad, and an additional effort bowler or two. While this has normally paid off quite handsomely during home test series, a glance at the cricket expert opinions from around the world tell a different story, especially when England leave their own shores.

This is because pace and swing bowling simply does not work in certain areas of the sub-continent, where in order to compete a bowling attack must extract movement from rock hard pitches; against fully acclimatised batsmen. This Achilles heel that England have was highlighted in their recent tour of India. Ultimately the likes of Jack Leach and Dom Bess were not up to the task of spinning England to victory, despite playing in perfect spin conditions. This dearth of spin options also continues to hamper England’s ability to retain the Ashes on Australian soil.

Think of all the greatest test sides there have ever been, and usually somewhere among them was a spinner who could turn the ball both ways. Or at least bring some kind of wow-factor to the table rather than just standard finger spin. While England refuse to give the likes of Matt Parkinson and Adil Rashid a proper run in the test side, there could be a very long wait before England get their own Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan, to take them to the pinnacle of the long-form game.

Wood and Archer Need Back-Up

Mark Wood Jofra Archer England PA
England’s Mark Wood and Jofra Archer

It has been a long time since England had two bowlers who could deliver consistently at well over 90mph, but that is the gold dust that the selectors have at their disposal in Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.

Such pace is invaluable for unlocking stubborn partnerships or blowing away tail enders, but it can usually only be used in short, sharp bursts.

That is where spinners can be so useful, taking the lion’s share of the overs, while also providing the perfect foil to the pace barrage coming from the other end. This is particularly useful in countries like Sri Lanka, India, and Australia, where temperatures out in the middle can soar and leave pacemen blowing after just a few overs.

The Surprise Factor

Down through the generations touring sides that have come to England have always known they will have to deal with high quality seam bowling, but rarely have they ever been too preoccupied with the likes of Phil Tufnell, Ashley Giles, or Jack Leach.

An injection of genuine spin talent could completely change the complexion of the England test side, as batting line-ups know they will not be getting an easy ride when the first or second change of bowling comes.

What is more, England’s current crop of x-factor spinners can also bat a bit too, with Adil Rashid constantly showing his ability at the crease in the shorter forms of the game, which is more than can be said for Leach and Bess, for whom scoring “0 not out” is an achievement.