Giles a maligned odd-job man

The brickbats have hurt, but he remains England's best spinner and an integral part of Team Vaughan

There was a telling moment when Ashley Giles took his second wicket in New Zealand's first innings here. The bowler went into an immediate clinch with his captain, Michael Vaughan. He then went down on one knee, as if in supplication, and pointed jubilantly at his leader and friend.

There was a telling moment when Ashley Giles took his second wicket in New Zealand's first innings here. The bowler went into an immediate clinch with his captain, Michael Vaughan. He then went down on one knee, as if in supplication, and pointed jubilantly at his leader and friend.

It was a scene of unadulterated joy, not often witnessed at the capture of a second wicket in an innings by a bowler, not even when the outgoing batsman has made 108 and has been lured into miscueing a drive to cover. But Giles has been through the mill lately. He is living testimony to the fact that spinners need help.

In the past year or so he has become almost a figure of fun in English cricket, maligned for being the best spinner in England, as if the dearth of slow bowlers was somehow his fault. Wickets have been hard to come by. In nine of the last 20 Test innings in which he has bowled Giles has failed to take a wicket. In Tests overall he has 90 wickets at more than 40 runs apiece.

He has borne the criticism with grace, always aware of his limitations. "It has been a rough old time of late," he said on the night before the expansive exultation of taking Scott Styris's wicket. "I keep going, I've got quite broad shoulders and just get on with it. It's just nice to bowl. When I'm required I will do my job."

For once, in this match, Giles has been allowed to do that job on a pitch granting him a few favours. He has still bowled over the wicket too often for some critics, but in a spell of 16 consecutive overs yesterday he had New Zealand under pressure, and there was evidence of both loop and turn.

Poor Giles has become symptomatic of a deep-rooted malady, which in truth shows no signs of being cured. There are no decent spin bowlers because there are no decent pitches for them on which to bowl.

It is widely held that England will not be a real contender to be the best side in the world until they have a spinner of the highest quality. The theory is tested in practice by courses and schemes and programmes and projects. It is hard to resist the conclusion that there is a lot of spin about spin. In the rest of the world they seem to develop naturally (though India, of all places, does not exactly have a production line).

Yet Giles remains the best of English spinners. At The Oval in the final Test of 1997, Phil Tufnell helped to turn the match on its head by taking 7 for 66 against Australia and four more wickets in the second innings. In seven years and 72 Tests since, Giles is the only spinner to have taken five wickets in an innings, which he has done three times. But a spinner could never be said to have won a game for England in that time.

Giles has doubtless been sustained by the support of his colleagues. He is unquestionably a superb fellow to have in the dressing room, who recognises more than most that cricket is a team sport. He would win many a poll for being the cricketers' cricketer.

Perhaps it helps that Vaughan is his chum as well as his captain. He not only under-stands Giles's role in the side - which is as a support bowler, not a match-winning one - but also takes succour from his presence. Hence the undiluted gladness as Styris went on his way in Nottingham.

Giles has played in the vast majority of England's recent matches, missing out only through sickness or injury, or when a spinner is deemed surplus to requirements. Surprisingly, he has been more often omitted in the one-day game, which says much about England's haphazard, misguided philosophy in the short form of the game.

It irritates the purists that Giles is so often used defensively, bowling over the wicket to curb batsmen, not round it to try to get them out. In the West Indies he was a huge disappointment. He had been out of form, but had come back in Sri Lanka. It was hoped and expected that he would be a handful for West Indies' left-handers, and in those pre-Harmison Age days it was predicted he might end the series as the leading wicket-taker. In three Tests and six innings he took two wickets.

But he has overcome that disappointment, wheeling away against New Zealand this season, usually into the rough. Doing his job. What should really rankle is that there is no serious contender for his place, let alone a potential right-arm partner. The era of John Emburey and Phil Edmonds now seems like a sort of golden age. Two spinners!

Gareth Batty, of Worcestershire (but a Yorkshireman by birth and inclination), is the reserve spinner, and continues to develop neat changes of pace. Robert Dawson, of Yorkshire, took nine wickets in their win over Durham last week. They both have years on their side, but they could bowl forever and not necessarily develop the element of mystery.

The 18-year-old leg-spinner Mark Lawson, also a Yorkshireman, continues to receive plaudits. But it will be intriguing to see what playing on Yorkshire pitches does for his progress. In various leagues, young teenage spinners are creating excitement. But Giles remains the best. He and Vaughan will be locked in tight embrace for a while yet.

Suggested Topics
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us