Ashley Giles's three-year reign as England's premier spin bowler was put under severe pressure here yesterday following another impressive display from Worcestershire's Gareth Batty. In the two hours play that were available before persistent rain brought a premature end to England's last warm-up game before their inaugural Test match against Bangladesh, the all-rounder took three good Bangladesh wickets to go with the composed half-century he scored on Friday.
With England's selectors still undecided about the make-up of their attack, Batty's timing could not have been better. Giles, who has been a regular member of the Test side since he played a significant role in England's series win in Pakistan in 2000, where he claimed 17 victims, has recently struggled for wickets.
Michael Vaughan will be reluctant to dispense with the bowler who offers him greater control than any other in his side, but with the pressure on England to win this two Test series in Bangladesh 2-0, he and his fellow selectors could be tempted to play Batty ahead of Giles should they decide to opt for only one spinner.
Batty's three second-innings wickets against Bangladesh A took his tally on this tour to seven. In comparison, Giles has taken just nine wickets, at more than 63 runs apiece, in the last six Tests he has played in.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Batty's bowling was that he threatened both edges. After luring Aftab Ahmed into chipping a simple catch to Vaughan at extra cover, the 26-year-old then found the inside edge of Rajin Selah's bat - Nasser Hussain took a simple catch in his new fielding position at short leg - before tempting Nazimuddin to play at a ball he could have left. This outside edge gave Geraint Jones, substitut-ing behind the stumps, his first catch for England.
Threatening both edges of the bat is something that modern finger-spinners now need to do if they are to be successful at Test level. Jim Laker may have taken 19 wickets in a Test match, and Lance Gibbs was once the leading wicket-taker in the game, but pitches and the technique of batsmen have rendered orthodox spinners toothless.
This has not been lost on Batty, who is attempting to develop the Muttiah Murali-tharan, Saqlain Mushtaq or Harbhajan Singh ball that moves away from a right-handed batsman. It is this variety that makes these finger- spinners the world-class performers they are, and it is crucial for Batty that he develops similar skills.
"I've played around with this ball and I have got one that I can almost get to straighten," said Batty, "but to get it moving the other way is difficult. I am bringing it back stage by stage, but it's unlikely I will be happy to use it during this tour.
"I started bowling it from six or seven yards 18 months ago and I can now do it pretty well from 18 yards. It turns an inch or two depending on the surface, but it is never going to turn as much as an off-spinner. All I and other spinners are trying to do is disrupt the batsman in the last three yards the ball travels before it arrives at the other end."Reuse content