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England confident over spin threat

26th September 2012

Defending World T20 champions put their ‘blip’ against India behind them and are optimistic for Super Eights

This is still the time for optimism. England embark upon the first of their three Super Eight games on Thursday when they play West Indies and Stuart Broad is sounding confident.

But just as actors are compelled to refer to “the Scottish play” when discussing “Macbeth” so England now appear to talk of “the blip” when referring to the group game against India when they were ignominiously bundled out for 80.

Broad even takes confidence from the ground at Pallekele, which is about half an hour outside Kandy if you can avoid the rush hours (they seem to have several of those each day). “It’s my first time here,” said Broad “and it looks a fantastic ground; it reminds me a bit of the Caribbean so it brings back happy memories.”

It is an impressive stadium that generated quite an atmosphere when Pakistan played Bangladesh on Tuesday evening. So when Sri Lanka take on New Zealand in the afternoon match on Thursday it should really be buzzing.

England will be studying the properties of this venue closely during that match before finalising their team to play West Indies in the evening.

So far it seems that Pallekele is a batsman’s friend. There is good, reliable bounce here but the short ball sits up like a cocker spaniel pup and begs – to be hit. Inaccurate pacemen have been caned, half-hearted bouncers dispatched into the grassy banks on either side of the arena. There has not been much turn either but the slower bowlers have been marginally more successful. England will surely revert to playing three specialist pacemen rather than four (thus omitting either Jade Dernbach or Tim Bresnan from the side that played India) and two spinners (probably Samit Patel rather than Danny Briggs will be the second one).

But how many spinners will West Indies choose after England’s “blip” against India? Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, has no doubt been taking notes. “We will definitely look to bowl spin against them,” he said, “though we have quality seam bowlers in Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul. But Sunil Narine is our trump card. And we have Samuel Badree who’s another spinner.”

Narine may not have been too successful in England last summer, but he looked impressive against Ireland in West Indies’ last match and has a fine record in the IPL. Badree is a wrist-spinner from Trinidad who just could be parachuted into the side – just because it’s England. And there are also the makeshifts, Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.

Broad is not surprised to be confronted by questions about his team’s capacity to prevail against spinners outside England. “The spin thing has been around for as long as I have. Every time an England team comes to the subcontinent, the spin question comes up. The most important thing is that the guys have their options and I know from training that they do – either a get-off-strike option or a boundary option.

“We just didn’t show it the other night [in “the blip” against India]. We put ourselves under extra pressure by losing some soft wickets in the first six overs and it was hard to get back in the game from there and we never found that formula. It’s an individual thing to find the best way – whether it is a sweep or hitting it straight. You find your own way and I believe the guys can do that.” Of course he does; he has to.

However it is quite a departure and a tad surreal to be discussing England’s capacity against spin at such length when contemplating a fixture against West Indies.

Usually there are other factors. In the past it was the battery of pace bowlers. In the present it is usually the battery of batsmen with the ammunition to clear boundaries like those at Pallekele (the straight ones do not seem very long) at regular intervals. In short there is the problem of Gayle and his muscular henchmen.

The analysts keep stressing the importance of the first six overs of T20 cricket when the powerplay is in operation and Gayle is at the crease. Broad has read the dossiers. “The stats say that if you lose three wickets in the first six overs you basically lose the game. As a bowling unit, we try to take wickets in the first six. As a batting unit, you must have that risk-reward. Yes, you want to be scoring 40-plus but you don’t want to be throwing wickets away. That’s what we did against Afghanistan; we valued our wickets and played strong shots. The other day [he is now referring to the “blip” again], we threw our wickets away. It’s important to get that balance.”

England probable Kieswetter, Hales, Wright, Morgan, Bairstow, Buttler, Patel, Broad, Swann, Finn, Dernbach.

West Indies probable Gayle, Smith, Charles, Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard, Ramdin, Sammy, Rampaul, Edwards, Badree.

Umpires S Davis Aus and A Rauf Pak

Third umpire A Dar Pak Match referee J Srinath Ind © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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