6/1/2016 0 Comments
For a cricket fan, there are fewer better sights than watching a spinner turning the ball a mile from leg-stump to outside the off-stump, so the recent match at Taunton had lovers of cricket purring.
It was, at last, a triumph for the new toss regulations which is supposed to encourage clubs to produce spinning wickets to improve to the calibre of spin bowlers around the county circuit.
You can go to any club ground on a Saturday or a Sunday can see a youngster running in off eight paces trying to swing the ball outside off-stump and attempting to induce an edge. Indeed, I am one of those bowlers, a 20 something medium pacer, who after trudging off of his 11 paces run-up bowls a ball of around 50mph with differing success. The reason behind that, simple, when I was growing up my idols were Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff and Darren Gough. They were the pin-up boys of my generation, so it makes sense for the ECB to attempt to make the next poster boy of English cricket to be a world-class spinner.
Indeed, not since the charismatic Graeme Swann have England enjoyed seeing the ball turn out of the rough and rock back the off-stump to leave the batsman bewildered to how he has just lost his wicket. I may have only been one when Shane Warne broke onto the scene and stunned the world with that ball to Mike Gatting, but it is moments like that that inspires a generation.
I am sure if you go down to a local cricket club in Sydney or Hobart you’ll see kids trying to recreate that magic moment. It is time that happened in the UK, all it takes is one moment, and it creates a spark and interest in a new skill. Whilst Moeen tries to skittle out opposition with his slow turn, no offence to the Worcestershire man, but it is far more likely that he is going to inspire people with his flaying cover drive than his off-spinner.
That is why the ECB need to be praised for their attempt to produce more spin friendly conditions. England needs another Graeme Swann or Phil Tufnell. A look around the county circuit will tell you just how desperate the situation is. Thankfully, there looks to be one or two breaking through, the likes of Jack Leach at Somerset and Mason Crane at Hampshire, there are players out there, they just need to be encouraged and nurtured.
Leach, in particular, is one catching the eye down in Taunton, largely thanks to the dry spinning pitches down in the West Country. A look at the game against Surrey that turned out to be one of the games of the season so far tells you how exciting the county game can be if it is done right. Result wickets like that one at Somerset are far more likely to bring the punters through the door than docile batsman friendly wickets.
You only have to look at the attendances, okay whilst the weather wasn’t at the County Ground in Northampton, I would bet money that the attendance didn’t break the 500 mark, whereas at Taunton the gate was over the 1000 mark on every day and on the deciding day 2000 fans packed the Taunton venue to see a thrilling final day.
Jack Leach, at 24-years of age, could be the next big thing in English cricket, the youngster bamboozled some of the best batsmen in the circuit on his way to match-figures of 8-97 as he produced a fine all-round display to take his side to victory.
The pitch was obviously offering spin with Surrey stalwart Gareth Batty also collecting fine figures finishing with a ten-wicket bag for the match. I am not saying every pitch should be a spinner's paradise but the county game would be a whole lot more exciting and crowd friendly if more matches finished in the fashion it did on Monday in Somerset.
The emergence of spin will prove to be more and more crucial over this season as England begin their preparations for their winter tours of Bangladesh and India, whilst many of our Test stars don’t appear on the county scene as much as spectators like there is sure to be an opportunity for a spinner to receive a national call-up in the winter. England surely can’t travel to Asia with just one spinner, so should a county spinner continue to impress their chances of a nice winter trip to Asia is surely in the bag.
English batsman are known to struggle against the spinning ball, so the theory behind the ECB placing more incentive for counties to produce more spin friendly wickets is to help young English batsmen to improve their game against the spinning balls. For once, the ECB have got something right, and it is surely only going to have a positive effect on the English game going forward.
The moral of the story is, the pitch is key, the better the pitch the better the spectacle, the more interest County Cricket will receive.
Written by David Bowden (@Bowdenwhu)
David Bowden, Site Owner - Grumbler, Cricket fanatic and Sports Journalist