NASSER HUSSAIN: England need to look at spin in their Ashes inquest

NASSER HUSSAIN: England need to have a good hard look at spin when conducting their Ashes inquest… while Nathan Lyon offers Australia control, Jack Leach’s negative bowling has been milked for runs

  • England must ask why spinner Jack Leach is reduced to negative bowling
  • Leach has to improve and look at how Nathan Lyon deceives the batsman 
  • The left-armer went virtually the whole of last summer without bowling 
  • He was thrown in on a green top in Brisbane and offered little protection in field
  • Crazy spell in Sydney where he was milked for runs sums it all up for tourists 

England must ask why Nathan Lyon is giving Australia such control and wicket-taking potential while Jack Leach is reduced to a holding role with negative bowling.

It is a situation that has been a long time coming and is one England need to have a good hard look at when they conduct their inquest into this Ashes.

Firstly Leach needs to get better. He has to look at how Lyon gets drop and drift and deceives the batsman before the ball lands without any hint of mystery. It means his captain can set attacking fields with men round the bat.

England must ask why Jack Leach is reduced to a holding role with negative bowling

Firstly Leach needs to get better by looking at how Nathan Lyon (right) gets drop and drift

But also English cricket needs to look at how they can bring into the Ashes a spinner who went virtually the whole of last summer without bowling.

I’m an advocate for winning the game in front of you so it could be argued England tried to do that with their selection. 

After all, who are you going to leave out in English conditions with the Dukes ball to accommodate Leach? Jimmy Anderson? Stuart Broad? Chris Woakes? Ollie Robinson?

Leach was thrown into the series on a green top at the Gabba and was battered all around

Leach, though, did not even bowl much for Somerset and the time for England to look after him was firstly by not throwing him in at the Gabba on a green top and, once they had done so with runs at a premium, by giving him more protection in the field. Instead Joe Root had men up and Leach was battered all around Brisbane.

Then, because England basically don’t rate spin, they left Leach out at Adelaide and he had to sit there and watch Robinson bowl a bit of off-spin on a turning pitch. It must have made Leach wonder where on earth in the world he would play Test cricket.

Fast forward to day two of the fourth Test after Leach had been selected in Melbourne and again at Sydney and his role was simply getting England through to the new ball. He was asked to bowl defensively so England could quickly get back to their seamers.

Joe Root (left) had men up for Leach (right) instead of giving him more protection in the field

That crazy spell on Thursday, with Leach getting milked for runs with men on the boundary, just summed it all up. And when he did find Usman Khawaja’s edge on 28 England dropped yet another chance.

It was no better at the other end. I would have picked any bowler other than Ben Stokes in that enforcer role. I said right at the start of this tour he had to be looked after in this series after his complete lack of cricket for six months.

Instead, banging the ball in halfway down time and again with the effort that involves, he was an accident waiting to happen. If England want an enforcer get Wood to do it with his extra pace for three or four overs. As it was Stokes was always going to snap.

Then Leach had to watch Ollie Robinson (right) bowl some off-spin on a turning Adelaide pitch

When Leach did find Usman Khawaja’s edge on 28 England dropped yet another chance

I remember saying similar things to this at the Oval last summer when it went flat on day four against India and Root was bowling Woakes and Anderson into the ground. Moeen Ali was just stood there not bowling because there was such a mistrust of spin and he had been going at four an over. Yet as soon as Root brought himself on he got a wicket.

It is linked with the domestic red-ball game’s other problems. Batters are not scoring runs on pitches that suit seam and if county teams are being bowled out for 150 they are not going to use their spinner.

England have a managing director of cricket in Ashley Giles who was a left-arm spinner himself. He now has to find a way for them to believe in their spinners, trust them and captain them properly.

We have had Graeme Swann – and Moeen – producing world-class performances in recent years. How do we make sure now that Jack Leach is not an after-thought bowling with negative fields and mind-set? It is happening far too often for the health of English cricket.

I would have picked any bowler other than Ben Stokes in that enforcer role for this series




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