Angus Fraser: England should turn to Patel as spinning option

Saturday 18 August 2012 05:27

It is inevitable that Jones' condition will require surgery but England believe, with careful management, he will be able to get through three tough Test matches in Multan, Faisalabad and Lahore. That England are prepared to take such a risk on the fast bowler highlights what a valuable member of Vaughan's side he has become.

England's Ashes success was built around four high-quality fast bowlers relentlessly blasting away at the opposition. Ashley Giles bowled a little spin here and there, but his role was to keep it quiet while the big boys rested. On occasions, this ruthless approach may not have been pretty but it worked, and Vaughan will instruct his pacemen to do the same against Pakistan. Reverse swing, and the ability of bowlers to use it, will play a key role in the series. Pakistan is where this art was discovered and perfected, and the rough, dry nature of the pitches and outfield will ensure that fast bowlers always have something with which to work.

Prior to the injury, Jones was considered as England's reverse-swing specialist. Andrew Flintoff also used it magnificently, but it was Jones' ability to cause havoc with an old ball which surprised the Australian batsmen. It gave them no respite and the incessant pressure eventually wore them down.

If Jones fails to overcome his ankle complaint, and there has to be a real chance it will flare up again, England will be forced into changing their tactics. James Anderson should pip Chris Tremlett for the last fast-bowling spot in the tour party, yet the selectors are unlikely to turn to him in the event of Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Flintoff or Jones falling over.

The selectors' decision to replace Jones with Paul Collingwood in the fifth Test was understandable but it is unlikely to be repeated in games where they need more than a draw. Collingwood will travel to Pakistan as England's extra batsman but in the event of Jones being injured, the probable replacement would be a second spinner.

Selecting a second, and indeed a third, spinner is not an easy task because England do not possess many slow bowlers of quality. The pitches in Pakistan may not encourage spin as much as they once did, but it is hard to believe the groundsmen will attempt to produce surfaces containing pace and bounce.

So who will accompany Giles to Pakistan? There are several candidates but very few stand out. Duncan Fletcher will expect his spin bowlers to be able to bat and field to a satisfactory level and this rules out Northamptonshire's Monty Panesar and Jason Brown.

Gareth Batty has had an unspectacular season with Worcestershire, and his position as cover for Giles is under threat from Alex Loudon and Graeme Swann. Shaun Udal took 27 wickets in the five matches Hampshire played while Shane Warne was on Ashes duty but England's selectors enjoy showing continuity and Batty can expect to be picked.

That England may well be forced into playing two spinners in a Test match means they have to take a third, in case one of these bowlers picks up an injury on the morning of a match. Giles has had a hip problem throughout the summer, and it makes sense for the extra slow bowler to be a left-arm spinner.

In an emergency Vaughan could bowl off-spin, but England would need a bowler who can turn the ball away from a right-handed batsman. There are even fewer left-arm spinners in England than off-spinners, and Min Patel is the best of the lot. Patel may be 35 but he has had an outstanding year for Kent, bowling more than 563 overs. He can be relied upon to bowl to the field his captain wants and he can bat.

Geraint Jones will travel as England's first-choice wicketkeeper yet he is under pressure to keep well. In Pakistan, wicket-taking opportunities do not come along as regularly as they do in England and every chance must be taken. Chris Read dropped two catches as Nottinghamshire won the County Championship on Saturday, showing that every wicketkeeper makes mistakes. James Foster will be considered but Matt Prior, the Sussex stopper who can also bat, will expect to go on his first full tour.

Angus Fraser's England touring party: M P Vaughan (c), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, S P Jones, P D Collingwood, M J Prior, J M Anderson, G J Batty, M M Patel.

One-day squad: Gough is feeling the pace and must step aside

England have reached a pivotal moment in their preparation for the 2007 World Cup. Michael Vaughan, the England captain, would love Darren Gough to be a member of the 14-man squad that travels to the West Indies in 17 months' time, but the selectors have to decide whether they feel the fast bowler still has it in him to perform at this level. Gough had a dreadful time in England's one-dayers this summer as the Australians smashed him to all parts. The selectors have to decide whether these performances were an aberration or the start of a permanent decline. They also need to realise England have only 35 or so matches before the World Cup, games in which they can develop Chris Tremlett, James Anderson, Simon Jones and Stephen Harmison. They cannot afford to waste the five one-day games in Pakistan at the conclusion of the Tests. Gough has been England's best bowler in this form of the game, but now is the time to say thank you and goodbye. Gough said: "They are going to discuss whether they need to have a look at someone in case I'm not around for the World Cup. This winter [could] be the ideal time."

Angus Fraser's one-day touring party: M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, K Pietersen, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, G O Jones (wkt), A F Giles, S J Harmison, S P Jones, C T Tremlett, J M Anderson, V S Solanki, G J Batty, O A Shah.

Take five: The handful of twirlers hoping to catch the plane to Pakistan

* MIN PATEL (Kent, left) 2005: 424 runs @ 28.26, 53 wickets @ 28.5.

At 35 , Patel is one of the most consistent and most experienced players in county cricket. The left-arm spinner has had an excellent season for Kent but he will only play if Ashley Giles picks up an injury. He could be relied upon to perform at short notice.

* GARETH BATTY (Worcs) 2005: 446 runs @ 27.87, 31 wickets @ 35.64.

Batty has acted as England's second spinner for almost two years now, filling in for Giles on the rare occasions when he has been injured. The competitive 27-year-old is a safe yet unimaginative option.

* ALEX LOUDON (Warks) 2005: 748 runs @ 35.61, 26 wickets @ 41.

Loudon is the three-dimensional type of cricketer Duncan Fletcher wants in his teams. No slow bowler has scored more runs than the off-spinner. The 25-year-old also has a doosra, the ball that turns the other way.

* SHAUN UDAL (Hants) 2005: 159 runs @ 19.87, 35 wickets @ 18.14.

Udal toured Australia with England in 1994-95 but did not make his Test debut. He may be getting on a bit, but the off-spinner is a good, honest cricketer who took wickets while Shane Warne was on Ashes duty.

* GRAEME SWANN (Notts) 2005: 236 runs @ 19.66, 29 wickets @ 34.31.

Swann is a talented all-round cricketer who should be pushing for a place in England's Test side. The 26-year-old received a poor report after his only full England tour, but he should have grown up by now.

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