Much to the amazement and probable annoyance of the long-form purists, one of the side effects of the game’s shortest format has been the renaissance of the spinner. In this season’s Twenty20 Blast, seven of the 20 leading wicket-takers were slow bowlers.
This phenomenon has had an effect on the longer limited-overs game. Spinners are viewed not with suspicion as a breed who might sometimes keep an end tight by darting the ball in on leg stump, but as men who turn a game by taking wickets. Perhaps it should always have been so, but it is part of the game’s constant evolution.
Adil Rashid, who helped to drag England back into the series against Australia this week with an absorbing display of the one-day leg-spinner’s craft, has noticed the difference in his intermittent international career, which began in 2009. Now, it is made plain that he is there to take wickets and to bowl as if he intends to take wickets.
“It’s a different set-up from when I first came in, a whole different environment,” he said yesterday as he prepared to play his first international on his home ground of Headingley. “My mindset is a lot clearer, the coaches, the captain, the mindset of the team is a lot clearer.
“Times have changed. Twenty20 has come in and spin plays a big part. There has been a big change. Wrist-spin is seen as a way of taking wickets and that’s what my job is in the team.
“People are looking to get wickets in that key middle period as well. That’s why you get people involved who can bowl variations, leg-spinners, top-spinners, whatever.”
It has added a fresh dimension. Rashid, who had played only five ODIs before this summer, has appeared in all nine this season and is the team’s leading wicket-taker. He looks and sounds much more at ease than when great things were first trumpeted for him six years ago.
Unless the selectors have one of their periodic fits of forgetfulness or illogic he will play an important part in the campaign across all forms in the UAE against Pakistan next month. He should have been blooded in Tests before.
The tour of the West Indies last spring was the obvious opportunity but it was spurned when Rashid bowled ineffectually in the warm-up matches. While he looked a little overwhelmed, the selectors should have seen the bigger picture instead of living in the narrow moment.
Rashid still maintained yesterday, probably trying to avoid tempting providence, that Tests remained a long way away. Bowling in one-day cricket is no cakewalk for a spinner. At Old Trafford the other night a rare turning pitch offered copious encouragement but that was a rarity.
“For me it’s looking to get the batsman out, whether it’s bowling my variations, bowling it quicker or whatever it is,” said Rashid. “I’m not really looking to tie him down but the best way of tying him down is to get wickets.”
England will be forced into at least one change for today’s match. The all-rounder Chris Woakes, who has already missed much of the summer with injury, is out again, this time with a thigh strain. It is hoped he will be fit in time to be selected for the UAE tour, for which the squad will be named on Tuesday.
Australia may rest the fast bowler and World Cup hero Mitchell Starc, who has had a long year of cricket, and introduce John Hastings, who has been effective for Durham this season. If England can manage another win it will set up an ideal climax to a riveting international summer at Old Trafford on Sunday.
England E J G Morgan (capt), A D Hales, J J Roy, J W A Taylor, B A Stokes, J M Bairstow, M M Ali, D J Willey, A U Rashid, L J Plunkett, S T Finn.
Australia S P D Smith (capt), J A Burns, A J Finch, G J Bailey, G J Maxwell, M R Marsh, M S Wade, A C Agar, J W Hastings, J L Pattinson, P J Cummins.
Umpires R Gough (Eng) & K Dharmasena (SL).
Weather Dry and overcast with sunny spells. Max temp: 19C
TV Sky Sports 2, 10am-7pm. Highlights: Channel 5, 7-8pm.Reuse content