If a distinct line can be drawn between England’s Test summer and their poor ODI showings against India, a common theme can be found in their struggles against spin bowling across all formats of the game.
While these battles are far from a recent development, they have certainly been prevalent since the departure of Mark Ramprakash as batting coach earlier this year. A summer of fixtures against spin-masters India has also made the matter one of urgency.
Joe Root’s ton in the fifth ODI – England won by 41 runs – suggests that for the 23-year-old, together with many of his team-mates, the foundations and knowledge of how to play spin are there.
Their failure to put it into practice, however, remains one of the most overt challenges of Peter Moores’ second reign, and one that must be rectified, or at least improved before the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
Lack of confidence
Here, confidence, or lack of it, is certainly a factor. Alastair Cook once hit three back-to-back centuries in India, but his self-assurance took a beating since the Ashes whitewash Down Under. His batting style has noticeably changed since.
A year of poor Test performances, on top of an embarrassing T20 World Cup and series defeats to Sri Lanka and India, have all taken their toll on England’s ability to play a system far removed from what they are used to in the domestic game.
The obvious answer to the question of why England, of all international sides, have such a problem with spin can be found in the County Championship’s pitches, which simply do not equip them with enough experience of it.
Though few top England players spend much of the season with their respective counties, domestic cricket is where they have learned how to bat.
After witnessing England’s mauling by 133 runs in the second ODI, Sir Ian Botham declared England have no chance of winning the World Cup, not least because their top and middle orders’ major weakness is so well known by opposition bowlers.
Spinners at the World Cup?
In better news for the Three Lions’, Australia great Mike Hussey has predicted spinners will struggle at the World Cup, but they will still need to have made progress on batting on the kind of pitches that saw them torn apart by Australia in the winter.
Since Graeme Swann’s retirement, England have struggled with the absence of an orthodox spinner, with Moeen Ali offering a different brand of spin in training.
England remain bewildered, and in hindsight, their ODI series thrashing by India was to be entirely expected.