This time out for the team, we have a look at who should be the spinner for England. There are 5 spinners in the training squad; with veteran Mooen Ali, the legendary Jack Leach, uncapped Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi; whilst Dom Bess bowled England to victory in South Africa in January.
Who will the contributors pick this time out to spin the web?
For many people, the spinner spot is the hardest position to choose aside from the wicket-keeper. For me though, it is very clear who has to be England’s spinner for the upcoming series: Dom Bess.
While some people may argue for the return of Moeen Ali into the team, let me ask you this: does a player who has lost his spot in both the ODI and Test teams deserve to walk straight back in with no red ball cricket experience in almost a year? Quite simply, no. I think now is the time to regard Ali as a white ball specialist. Going back to him just doesn't feel right. The Test team has moved on from him, with a youthful vibe established in South Africa that helped us come home with a 3-1 series win. It's time Ali did the same and forget about trying to win his spot back because he can’t rely on reputation anymore; he needed performances with the red ball in the last 12 months and there aren’t any. Case closed, in my opinion.
As for Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi, their time will come in Test cricket, but at this moment in time, I believe it’s just too early to throw those guys in with limited red ball experience. That leaves Jack Leach, England’s cult hero from Headingley and Dom Bess, who formed part of that youth core on the last tour. While Leach has a better average in tests with the ball (29.02) compared to Bess (29.72), there is very little to separate them. The reason I choose Bess over Leach is due to the fact that he has played international cricket more recently than Leach, was part of that youth core in SA and ultimately, age is on his side. Whilst we can all marvel over that 1* from Headingley, these guys are being based off their bowling, and for me Bess just pips Leach.
Mooen Ali For the first time in years, Joe Root is spoilt for choice in the spin department. Late in the summer on waring pitches, England may opt to use two. But based on the assumption they will initially select one, I give my backing to Moeen Ali. Ali is a complex cricketer, and one whose management and selection has occasionally caused controversy. At the age of 33, Ali could be entering his most profitable years as a spinner. The 60-Test veteran is a proven match-winner. What confuses the issue is the looming spectre of the 2021/22 Ashes series. His record against Australia with both bat and ball is appalling. Whether they have got in his head, or simply their conditions do not suit him, I would not select him for that tour. So why select Ali now? The all-rounder's record against the other Test-playing nations is excellent. At this moment I believe he offers more threat with the ball than Leach and Bess. If he is in form, he has the ability of a frontline batsman. With the greatest respect to Leach and Co, they do not come close in terms of talent with the bat. With the potential pile-up of fixtures on the sub-continent next year, Moeen must be confident and playing regularly if England are to prosper. It should be next summer, not now when Moeen considers his Test match future.
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Lets start with Matt Parkinson. He spent all winter training with England as back up spinner and when Leach was ruled out in South Africa: England flew someone else out to play rather than home. He's not a viable option at the minute. Amar Virdi whilst a great talent is uncapped; so again a non-starter.
Moeen Ali does not deserve a test spot. Whilst I consider him very much a victim of appalling man management from England, he got dropped in the World Cup and in the Ashes for being awful. At his best he's brilliant; however unfortunately an equal amount of time is spent playing very badly. Unfortunately professional sport is cut throat and just because you say you can now play; does not warrant re-selection.
Dom Bess, whilst claiming a maiden fifor in South Africa, this was as much due to South Africa playing spin atrociously, rather than Bess bowling extraordinarily. Root picked up career best figures as a part timer in the same test to contextualise this. He's young and raw and vastly improved; however he would not be my pick.
Pick your best bowler; Jack Leach forced Dom Bess out of Somerset to go out on loan and has outbowled Ali in spin friendly conditions in Sri Lanka. If he's not taking wickets, he is the most able to be economical, with him fulfilling a holding role far more regularly than Ali and Bess who have a tendency to be expensive. With the West Indies having one left handed batsmen in their line up, a left arm spinner will be a more natural fit. Go forth the nut and clean your glasses.
There we have it. Division once more between the writers! Ali, Bess and Leach have all been selected here. Who would you pick? Let us know @InsideEdgeCrick on twitter