Hussain seeks spin solution

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The Independent Online

Now the going could get really tough for England. The naming of Alec Stewart in the Indian police's match-rigging inquiry yesterday, albeit without a shred of evidence, is bound to have an unsettling effect on a delicate tour. It will also deflect attention from the cricket.

Now the going could get really tough for England. The naming of Alec Stewart in the Indian police's match-rigging inquiry yesterday, albeit without a shred of evidence, is bound to have an unsettling effect on a delicate tour. It will also deflect attention from the cricket.

Actually, that would be no mean thing. The one-dayers might as well have been tossed down the Khyber Pass for all the application and wisdom that was ultimately shown and unless these faculties are restored smartly the Test series will quickly follow with a more resounding thud.

Preparation for the rigours ahead begins with a four-day match here today against a Patron's XI but which looks dangerously like a Cause Maximum Embarrassment To The Tourists' XI. England's opposition includes two leg spinners, a 17-year-old called Munir Ansari, who is described as the Rawalpindi Muralitharan, and a slightly older model, Mohammad Shafiq, who, fortunately, only takes after Anil Kumble.

These comparisons were probably made as part of a cunning plan to give England the jitters but since they were being promoted by Abdul Qadir and considering that England's reading of any spin so far has been slightly worse than their reading of Urdu, their validity is increased accordingly. Qadir is coach of the Patron's XI and knows a trick or two about spin bowling.

He took 236 Test wickets, 82 of them in 16 matches against England - 61 in nine at home - and his prognosis at the stadium yesterday was: "They can fight but they're not getting practice against the spinners at home, and getting practice all the time is very important. As far as this tour is concerned I am convinced the English batsmen will find it difficult."

Qadir, who advocated the establishment of an Academy of Spin in England, would not have found an argument from Michael Atherton, the England opening batsman who was one of six players to join the party yesterday for the Test section of the tour. Atherton said: "With spin bowling, dry wickets and reverse swing it's tough to win out here.

"England should have come to the subcontinent more often. It's sad that it's 13 years since Pakistan and nine or 10 since India. To improve your game you need to play in all conditions against different attacks."

The failure to organise such tours is a failure of the first order by administrators, which has betrayed a generation of English batsmen.

As Atherton said: "In England in the last couple of years, spin has been totally redundant in the conditions. I think that lessens the game."

He will have his wish granted in the coming weeks and was immediately drafted into the team for the first first-class match of the tour. All other five newcomers were also named in the 12 with the captain, Nasser Hussain, Stewart, Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick being rested. Graham Thorpe will lead England.

Both spinners are likely to get a game despite the grass on the pitch. Ashley Giles has performed adequately in the one-dayers but all eyes now will be on Ian Salisbury, returning to the international fold.

Salisbury has had his critics, but he can take comfort from support from an unexpected quarter.

It may be the leg spinners' old pals act but Qadir said that Salisbury should have been in the England team for years. Leg spinners had days when they got hit and days when they took wickets, he said.

This is a fresh start for him and for the side, but it is as well to be realistic. England should be good enough to keep the Patron's team at bay but if they are discomposed there should be few witnesses. Rawalpindi stadium today will be a much different than that for the match on Monday when there were 15,000 inside, 5,000 outside, another 2,000 police and complete disarray. It emerged yesterday that a bus carrying the only England supporters in the stadium was surrounded and stoned. Nobody was hurt.

It also emerged yesterday that England's captain kicked out in some irritation after he was wrongly given out lbw on Monday. His foot broke the glass door of the dressing-room fridge. England offered to pay for the damage but were declined.

ENGLAND (from): G P Thorpe (Surrey, capt), M A Atherton (Lancashire), M E Trescothick (Somerset), M P Vaughan (Yorkshire), G A Hick (Worcestershire), C White (Yorkshire), P A Nixon (Kent, wkt), A J Tudor (Surrey), D G Cork (Derbyshire), I D K Salisbury (Surrey), A F Giles (Warwickshire), M J Hoggard (Yorkshire).

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