Footwork and technique can dig tourists out of hole

Graham Thorpe's masterplan for how to combat spin in Asia has never been more apt for England

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The Independent Online

As the evidence of the series confirms, England are in a spin. It may be the mother of all spins, driven by a formidable opposition bowler and complicated by strange pitches and technology.

There never was going to be an easy way to play the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal on Asian pitches, and his orthodox slow-left-arm counterpart, Abdur Rehman, has hardly been less potent. The UAE may be a home away from home but it has done very nicely, thank you.

It is not that England were not prepared in their way, simply that they have been taken by surprise and subsequently uncertain what they should do. One man who knows better than most is Graham Thorpe, now the lead batting coach with the England Performance Centre but also the most adroit English player of spin in recent times.

"There is a balance to be achieved between understanding your technique properly in that part of the world and then actually implementing it," said Thorpe. "A wicket has fallen and you're walking out over the rope, and if you don't get your composure right, you don't implement the right technique at the right time, you can all fall down."

Since Thorpe was speaking before this series started it was as if he understood the pitfalls that lay in wait. He is at present in Sri Lanka with the England Lions, presumably trying to avert the kind of calamity in the future that has befallen the present No 1 Test side.

Thorpe played two, perhaps three, of the greatest of all England innings on the subcontinent. In the gloom of Karachi in late 2000 he made a serene 64 not out for England to gain an improbable series win against the Pakistan of Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi.

Three months later in Colombo against Sri Lanka, he was never better, scoring 113 not out and 32 not out in a magnificent four-wicket win which clinched the series. It was a master-class in dealing with slow bowling in alien conditions.

"Fitness is important because you're concentrating for longer periods of time but technique is massively important because the ball spins," said Thorpe. "The technique has to be spot on. We have to work very hard on that and that is being comfortable with footwork, potentially coming out of the crease. It's not always about just coming out of the crease, it's about how well you can actually push back, which is just as important in Asia."