Thursday, September 23

There is magic in the fingers of the magicians of the twist Moeen, Leach and Bess | England cricket team


SUBWAYoeen Ali had never been Worcestershire’s main spinner when he was taken out by England, although he had established himself as one of their best hitters when he made his tryout debut against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2014. Not surprisingly, he suffered from some trouble shooting. identity. problems as a test player.

He is one of my favorite cricketers. Off the field, Moeen has been one of the most trusted men in England. Everyone says that he is a rock solid character, always giving the team, selfless, cheerful and mischievous, a constant benign influence in the wardrobe. In between, reliability has rarely been the first word that springs to mind when he’s at the center of the action. He can hit wonderfully, timing a cover drive like David Gower in his pomp, and in a perfect world he would have ended up hitting somewhere in the top six for England and bowling when the occasion demanded.

However, that never happened. He was on the test team, much to his surprise, mainly because of his bowling game despite such limited experience, although there was obvious potential for Moeen, the offside player. Its stock delivery has all the right ingredients: it spins vigorously at a good pace, often landing at the end of its flight path. But we are never sure how the ball will come out of Moeen’s fingers. He is a modest bowler in part because he was never used to being Worcestershire’s top player and therefore has not always been comfortable in his role for England when the ball is spinning and is expected to beat opponents. That shouldn’t surprise us so much. Unlike Graeme Swann, who was exiled from the England organization for nearly a decade (he would never have returned if Duncan Fletcher had stayed longer), Moeen had to learn to be a test bowler at work.

Nor does it hint at any deception. The simple fact is that most spinners suggest far more cunning than they actually possess. A smile, an exasperated look, or a knowing look could give the impression that the last limit granted was, in fact, part of an elaborate and cunning plan. Such a bluff is an important item in the spinner’s arsenal. Since he can’t power gorillas, although Phil Edmonds managed to deliver a few in his time, these mind games represent much-needed ammunition for the slow bowler. But Moeen does not indulge in such fantasies because he never raised them in the anonymous county cricket nursery. It looks like it’s snaking down to the crease, ripping it apart, and hoping for the best.

And yet, despite all that, only three English spinners have taken more than Moeen’s 189 proving grounds: Derek Underwood, Swann and Jim Laker. Among the spinners who have taken 100 plots for England, only Swann can match Moeen’s strike rate. It is true that Moeen admits that he runs faster than all of them.

Adil Rashid has been England's finest spinner for over half a century and yet his test record is modest - 60 wickets averaging just under 40.
Adil Rashid has been England’s finest spinner for over half a century and yet his test record is modest – 60 wickets averaging just under 40. Photograph: Rafiq Maqbool / AP

This is partly because hitters have shifted their focus against spin, making runs and wickets come faster, and partly because prolonged accuracy has never been one of their obvious virtues. But look at the names of the bowlers behind him on the list: in descending order of windows taken, they are Lock, Panesar, Titmus, Emburey, Verity, Giles, Rhodes, Edmonds, Allen, Illingworth, Tufnell, Wright, Wardle, and Blythe. In that context, how come we argue with Moeen so easily? I guess it’s because we never know what’s to come.

The truth is that his spinning colleagues greatly appreciate him. Jack Leach and Dom Bess talk about his generosity as a senior colleague, although they are also his rivals. They gather knowledge about bowling internationally and it is Moeen who has the most experience. In fact, I’m a fan of all three. Leach has had to overcome many obstacles in his career; they just keep coming back, whether it relates to your health / fitness or your action, and you still persevere. Bess’s career has not been easy either, even though she rose to the top of international cricket with astonishing speed.

I have some similarities to Bess. We both bowled outside of breaks that were not considered an international class at Blundell’s school in Tiverton, albeit more than four decades apart. We both do what we are told when Mrs. Amy Candler speaks: she was one of Dom’s teachers and she is my daughter. And I guess we’re both more pragmatic than handsome hitters, who should probably have scored / scored more runs.

However, there are also considerable contrasts. Bess is infinitely a better fielder; He takes brilliant captures and conjures up straight-hitting outs, events that graced my career with the frequency of an appearance by Halley’s Comet. He also shows a lot more confidence in his ability than I did. You are clearly up for any challenge. First he impressed the England organization more with his energy and enthusiasm in participating in the morning football and subsequent field practice than with the outstanding quality of his breaks. They immediately liked his positive attitude and his enthusiasm for learning and progress. You have already advanced as a bowler; now he drives the ball with more spin and speed and his accuracy is improving.

Vic Marks hands Dom Bess his first test cap before the game against Pakistan at Lord's in May 2018.
Vic Marks hands Dom Bess his first test cap before the game against Pakistan at Lord’s in May 2018. Photography: Alex Davidson / Shutterstock

I was delighted to give him his first test cap at Lord’s when England played Pakistan in May 2018. It is an overwhelming occasion for the player and the person handing over the cap. I had the impression that I could have been more nervous than him. This was the third time that I had the privilege of presenting a cap to a rookie. The first was in Mumbai on December 22, 2012, right at the end of a tour of India. Joe Root was making his T20 debut and everyone else important had gone home to get ready for Christmas. So, through the elimination process, the England management summoned me to hand over their cap. After my encouragement, I noticed that England won and Root played a flawless game – he didn’t actually have to hit or pitch, but he did catch in the second.

Delivering that first limit is quite a demanding undertaking, but a welcome one for a veteran player. Obviously it is a great moment for the recipient and that is why it is important not to spoil it. You have about a minute to balance compliments with encouragement without being overly pompous or out of touch. It’s probably best not to open up with the observation that quality finger spinners were “10 a penny in my day.” Also, the role of the finger spinner has changed a lot since then.

I was more successful at one-day cricket internationally. It was accurate more than penetrating, but hitters could succumb when they tried to accelerate. The wristbands were considered a luxury in the short form of the game; Unless they were extraordinarily good like Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, or Mushtaq Ahmed, they were considered too rebellious and not worth the risk.

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In the 21st century, the opposite is true: spinning fingers are now widely considered to be too predictable with a cue ball, especially in T20 cricket. The good-length pitch has lost its power as hitters, almost any hitter, are confident they can clear the boundary if the ball is “in the groove.” In the 20th century, boundary fielders were reliable deterrents for most players. No longer. So wristbands are considered essential now; They can create uncertainty as the batter cannot prepare so early if he does not know which way the ball is going to turn. Also, the lack of predictability in line and length can now be seen as an advantage rather than a flaw.

Adil Rashid offers a good example of this trend. He has become one of the best slow bowlers in the world in cue ball cricket. Now he exudes confidence in these formats; he remains unfazed when one of his opponents has cleared the boundary; his googly can confuse the best and he is not afraid to use it frequently. In test cricket, he has been England’s best spinner for over half a century by a large margin and yet his record is modest despite everything (he has 60 proving grounds averaging just under 40).

New Vic Marks Book
Photography: Allen & Unwin

Now it’s the finger-spinner, bolstered by all those DRS lbws, who dominates in the longer format. All of this demonstrates a fascinating evolution of the game. The expectation was that as the games got shorter, the spinning dummy, especially, would go bankrupt. But the truth is the opposite. Meanwhile, players like Leach and Bess, who have moved on because of Somerset’s decision to produce some spinning pitches for championship cricket, are focused on the selection of evidence.

In January 2021 in Sri Lanka they played their first test together and shared 14 wickets in the match with some hiccups along the way. They both lacked practice, especially Leach, who for various reasons had not played an event for 14 months; in fact, he had hardly played cricket at the time. But in the end they combined quite well. It was reminiscent of this couple playing together at Taunton in recent years (although Bess has now signed with Yorkshire to guarantee a first-team spot).

The pitch in Galle was not that different from some of the County Ground in recent times, and gradually these two friends began to feel at home, both reveling in each other’s success. England ended up winning the match by seven wickets. There is no question that Bess and Leach improved with their experience of bowling together for Somerset in similar conditions, except for the temperature. However, in Taunton they are still awaiting recognition of the ECB’s gratitude for bolstering England’s meager stock.

Edited excerpt from Late Cuts: Reflections on Cricket by Vic Marks, published June 3 by Allen & Unwin, RRP £ 16.99


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