Spinners cast mesmerising spell

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The Independent Online

While England's self-destruction was most disheartening to watch, it was fascinating to see two high- class spinners destroy a batting side on a pitch which allowed them only marginal spin. After the seam bowlers had prompted and profited from three casual strokes, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble took over and England's batsmen were hypnotised and reduced to a startling, strokeless inadequacy.

In the morning when Nasser Hussain and Marcus Trescothick had fought back with such splendid spirit, Sourav Ganguly made the curious mistake of bowling the wrist-spinner Kumble before the off-spinner Harbhajan. England's ascendancy was given a deceptive appearance when Kumble's first six overs went for 35 runs.

He over-pitched and the absence of the flipper, which he pushes through, suggested that his shoulder is still causing trouble. Harbhajan was given just one over before lunch. Ganguly then returned to his inexperienced seamers afterwards and runs still came freely. But after Trescothick had been bowled playing no stroke at Tinu Yohannan and Graham Thorpe had driven lazily at Iqbal Siddiqui, it was back to spin.

From the pavilion end, Harbhajan tantalised with his clever changes of pace and variations of flight and Hussain and Mark Ramprakash were suddenly on a leash. Then, Kumble came back at the City End and removed Hussain with his first ball.

Kumble has never spun the ball significantly or often from the leg. Now he served up a diet of top-spinners and googlies. It was almost certainly one of the latter which found the edge of Hussain's bat. From the other end, Harbhajan hardly turned the ball from the off and dealt mostly with balls that went straight on or turned slightly away from the bat.

The significance of the three wickets which fell to the seamers was that they had accounted for all three of England's left-handers, who were the most likely to give trouble to the spinners. As it was, the spinners were now able to mesmerise the right-handers one after another.

It was a wonderful exhibition of bowling against batsmen who appeared to have no idea how to cope and were utterly unprepared to use their feet. The two spinners were never challenged after the morning's assault against Kumble and although the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, is determined that his tail-enders should try to bat a bit in order to help in emergencies, one longed for an old fashioned tail-ender or two prepared to swing the bat hard in hope. They could have done no worse.