Cricket / First Test: Technique has Smith in a flat spin

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KEITH FLETCHER, England's manager, has often been quoted since last winter's tour as saying that he was impressed by the speed at which the England batsmen had learnt to cope with the unaccustomed spin bowling they had encountered in India.

India had, in their trio, a leg-spinner in Anil Kumble who is admittedly not as dangerous as Shane Warne, and yet judging from Old Trafford most of the batsmen still find leg spin and googly bowling just about as confusing as they did in Calcutta last January.

This was certainly true of Robin Smith. In the first innings he wasted no time in edging a leg-break to slip; in the second, he pushed and prodded as if blindfold and as if every ball was his last for a painful hour and a quarter. He certainly is not one inch nearer finding a solution than he was in Calcutta. It was agonising to watch and as long as Warne stays fit one cannot in one's wildest dreams see Smith as any sort of a threat to Australia in this series.

The Australians will be overjoyed every time they see Smith's name among those chosen for England. His has become a wicket they can now anticipate and surely it would therefore be better if Smith made way for at least two left-handers who must be brought in to try to cope with Warne's wrist spin.

Smith may at times have fought his way to safety over long periods against the leg-spinners from Pakistan and he may be a great fighter, but it is now imperative that he goes back to the drawing board to work out a method which will enable him to live with Warne's leg spin. Surely it is not too much to expect such a capable player to do this and until he does he will be of limited use in this series.