Clear of mind and swift of foot... Bumble explains how to play spin in his latest blog from Dubai.
Last Updated: 01/02/12 9:30am
We saw an outstanding Test match in Abu Dhabi, absolutely brilliant.
The ball was spinning and that made for some fantastic cricket. Previous Test matches on that ground had been played on really flat pitches and we'd seen three double-hundreds scored there, but the Pakistani lads in our commentary team assured us that this one was looking different - and they were right.
I thought the quality of the spin bowlers - on both sides - made it a brilliant game to watch from a neutral point of view.
If you analyse things, however, you'd have to say that while both sets of spinners were fabulous, one set of batters were far better than the other - and that's why Pakistan deservedly won the game.
England restricted them to 145 in the last innings and they fancied winning from that position, but they just couldn't cope with the spin.
For some reason, England's players don't look to hit the ball down the ground and they don't look to hit boundaries. The Pakistan captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, is supposed to be one of the great grinders of international cricket but even he hit four sixes! Our lads were playing back when it was crying out for them to play forward.
That should be the approach against spin bowling, especially in the era of DRS, but nobody seems to have the confidence or the technique to use their feet and get to the pitch of the ball. That's the way to play spin; you've got to be clear of mind and swift of foot. You need to have dancing feet and be prepared to try to make the bowler change his length.
This isn't just some old man talking here. When I was involved with England we regularly came up against Shane Warne, arguably the best spinner the world has ever seen, and we brought in experts to coach the batters.
Those experts told us that if you sit there and block he would get you out. You've got to try to be proactive, disperse the fielders away from the bat and then that gives you opportunities to score singles. If you block, block, block then the top spinners will strangle you and it's only a matter of time before he bowls one that does for you.
I'm sure that's the thought process for the current England players, but there's a difference between having a plan and then executing it. They are unable to do what is necessary to combat spin.
They need the confidence to do it and that requires a clear and decisive mind. They also need the technique to be able to do it. England's batsmen are lacking both of those things right now.
Who would you change? Well, I would offer two players that I would describe as natural players of spin bowling: Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel.
Sometimes you need to play horses for courses.
England's bowlers were terrific, but batting-wise it was a poor effort and that was acknowledged by both the captain and the coach.
I'm sure everyone is angry at home, but I'm at the coalface and I can assure you that these players are furious with themselves for the way they have played.
As everybody is pointing out, the team is strong at home, but away from home they have been found wanting. If I was a betting man - and I am - then I would be putting a big bet on Pakistan to win the final Test.
The next series will be against, in my opinion, lesser spin bowlers in Sri Lanka, but it'll be very interesting the next time England go to India. If they've got any sense (and they have) they'll have noted what England can't do and we'll be playing on big spinning pitches.
I think that's great. I've said many times that I don't like (and some part of the world have been guilty of this) stats-fest wickets, which provide little more than an exercise in smashing runs.
When it spins you get an examination of mental process and technique and I absolutely love it.
Apart from England's batting, being out here in Dubai has been marvellous. It gets a huge tick from me.
On Sunday I had one of the greatest days of my life. I'll make no apologies for saying that I felt like (how shall I put this?) a pig in manure.
I spent the day at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship watching some of the world's greatest golfers. I'll confess I got some hospitality from HSBC and I was able to have a chat with people like Colin Montgomerie, Jonathan Davies and Gavin Hastings.
It was so well organised and was the perfect example of how to organise a world-class sporting event. It was comfortable, it was fun, it was relaxing and the standard of play was supreme.
I had money riding on Paul Lawrie and Rory McIlroy so I alternated between that group and the Tiger Woods / Robert Rock group. It was one fantastic day.
I couldn't wait to get on the golf course on Monday and I put in a good effort on the Montgomerie. Better still I took 20 Dirhams off Nasser (that's about four quid).
He wasn't too thrilled, I have to say.
Right at home
The other day I went for a beer with David Saker (England bowling coach), Mike Selvey (The Guardian), Derek Pringle (The Telegraph) and Vic Marks (The Observer) out here in Dubai.
Don't ask me how we managed it, but we were drinking Shepherd Neame Spitfire! It was bloody nice (though we had to pay a fair bit for it).
By the way, I spotted The Brigadier taunting me about the Dubai drinks prices on last week's blog. Personally, I'd like to see him elaborate further on the keg of Old Tom that was consumed recently (the landlord was last seen hosing the pub down...)
I've also been enjoying the seventies and eighties disco music up at Nelson's Bar, but you won't catch me dancing. I'm off to bed by the time most people are arriving!
Besides the real ale, I've been making myself at home in my apartment. I've washed my smalls, I've done some ironing and I feel quite domesticated.
I'd better not make a good job of it though. I'm worried 'Vipers' will start thinking I should start doing it at home...