Mehedi Hasan was awarded with Man of the series award for taking 19 wickets against England    Getty Images and AFP
Mehedi Hasan was awarded with Man of the series award for taking 19 wickets against England Getty Images and AFP

England almost pulled off a thriller and did the unusual in the second Test against Bangladesh at Chittagong, where they were chasing 273 runs in the fourth innings. After a disheartening defeat in the first Test, the onus of making a comeback and squaring the two-match series was on Bangladesh. They had their hopes pinned on this topsy-turvy game and did almost everything correct to emerge victorious. The Test witnessed some dramatic collapse as spinners made merry here at Mirpur. From 100 for no loss, England succumbed to 164 all out within a session as Mehedi Hasan, Shakib Al Hasan left the English batsmen bewildered with their craft and artistry with the red cherry.

England looked quite determined in the run-chase; in fact, this was the first time when their openers got a start. At tea, they were 100 for no loss and the tension was mounting in the Bangladeshi camp. Mehedi struck on the very first ball after the break as Ben Duckett s stumps were shattered and the partnership was broken. Chasing a target of 273 on this wicket was akin to walking on a cliff, a single slip and you see yourself languishing down in the dust. Shakib knows few basics of spin bowling and probably some tricks but he did well to complement a young Mehedi as the duo ran England rampant with their sly.

Mehedi, an off-spinner, ended the series with 19 scalps to his name. Though the games were played on rank turners but for a debutant to hold on to his nerves along with accuracy and consistency is admirable. Most of the English batsmen hardly put up a fight and were technically unequipped to tackle spin. Losing 10 wickets for 64 runs raises some serious questions for the English side keeping in mind the India tour, which commences in few days.

Challenges against India

India indubitably have a well established and dominant set of spinners with the presence of Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja. The troika has not let any team taste success at home and have spun a series of web to take down the big guns at home. The likes of AB de Villiers, Kumar Sangakkara, Kane Williamson and Hashim Amla have found no answer to Ashwin’s guile, who has been unstoppable and has been equally supported by Jadeja and Mishra. One can expect India to dish out turning pitches for the series against England and the three spinners to make the most of it.

While Ashwin has developed tremendous control, Jadeja banks upon his ability to penetrate. Mishra has enough variations up in his sleeves along with his stock delivery, which is the leg-spin. England have a mountain to climb in the presence of these three spinners. Though one may argue that England won the series in 2012 by 2-1, when they toured India, but the current team is different than the one from that tour. England are without the services of Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar in the spin department, who were the massive destructors. Their batting looks bereft of oomph against spin and have not done anything of substance in the Bangladesh tour. Remember, the name Kevin Pietersen does not figure in the squad anymore. Their batsmen lack experience and need to drill hard with not enough time on their plate. India on the other hand have fared well at home and look unbeatable with the kind of bowling they possess. The recent Test series against South Africa and New Zealand saw the Indian spinners inflicting massive damage. The numbers corroborates the belief below:

Opposition Matches Wickets Overs
South Africa 4 61 354.3
New Zealand 3 41 304.3

Breakfast, lunch and dinner for Ashwin

Ashwin has been India s primary weapon in whites and has led the spin attack brilliantly With England having five left-handers in their batting order; Ashwin will get the ball to move away from them and further create troubles. He has evolved as an off-spinner and earned accolades from many greats in the fraternity. In 39 Tests so far, Ashwin has 21 fifers, six 10-for s and seven 4-fors so far. It purely means Ashwin’s consistency in wreaking havoc is mind-boggling. To add to his good fortunes, he has seven Man-of-the-Matches and equal number of Man-of-the-Series awards in his Test career so far.

Not just off-spin, Ashwin has developed a lethal delivery, which looks like a top-spinner but just holds its line. This has created a lot of trouble for left-handers in the recent times, because if the batsman plays it for the turn, the straighter line makes him a leg before candidate.And he delivers it without any conspicuous change in action.

Bowler Matches Wickets 5-for 10-for 4-for
Ashwin 39 220 21 6 7

Mehedi tasted a lot of success against England as he got rid of left-handed batsmen as many as 13 times. These numbers are an indication of how Ashwin can benefit from the southpaws in the English batting order.

Mehedi against English batsmen in the two-match Test series

Bowler Wickets Left-handed batsman Right-handed batsman
Mehedi Hasan 19 13 6

Michael Vaughan also mentioned a way out for England in the series against India as he wrote, More right handers in the top order..More consistency with the ball..Even if it means playing another seamer to do so..If not 5-0 in India

Vaughan s statement is a testament to the fact that Ashwin will be the tormentor-in-chief against the left-handers. He emphasised on the fact that England need to rope in more right-handed batsmen in the top-order, which will in a sense make it difficult for Ashwin to run through them and give themselves a chance. But Ashwin has not provided any respite for right-handers as well. Ask Williamson.

England bowlers not competent enough

One could not agree to the fact that English bowlers, especially the spinners were not up to the mark. The conditions were conducive for spinners and English could have done better than what they did. Moeen Ali bowled well in the first game but lacked support from the other end. Adil Rashid had one good outing, but England needed them to be more consistent like their counterparts. They bowled too many loose deliveries, which helped Bangladeshi batsmen milk runs and further easing off the pressure.

Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli has been in tremendous form and looking at the way English bowlers put in the hard yards in the first Test against Bangladesh, Vaughan lashed out at them by tweeting, If England’s spinners bowl like this in India I think @imVkohli might score plenty …. Batting left handed … !!

Cook accepted the fact and in the post-match interview said, “We didn’t bowl great. And yes, their spinners did out-bowl our spinners. We are not hiding behind the fact that we don’t have world-class spinners. It doesn’t mean our spinners are bad bowlers. We have guys who can bowl some really good balls and spells. But we can’t quite control well enough at the moment. We do not hold our length and line well enough. We bowl jaffas, but we’re easy to knock off strike and we don’t build the kind of pressure we’d like.”

The anomaly between Bangladeshi and English spinners in the series could be well explained in the table below.

Wickets chipped by spinners

Teams Overs Wickets Average
England 190.4 24 28.91
Bangladesh 282.1 38 19.92

England certainly need to make some drastic amends in the five-match series against India or else another series defeat in the Indian subcontinent is on the cards. England need to strengthen all their departments as India will be eagerly waiting to pounce on their Achilles Heels and seek revenge for their previous losses. India are on a winning spree under the watchful eyes of their new skipper Kohli, they have been emerged victorious in the last four series and will be looking to replicate their winning performance against the Englishmen. Looking at the current scenario, one could crystal glaze and predict India clean sweeping England at home.

(Suraj Choudhari is a reporter with Criclife and CricketCountry. He is an avid follower of the game, and plays the sport at club level. He has a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, and tries to express it through paper and pen.)