The next generation

We take a look at the state of spin bowling in county cricket in light of Norman Gifford's concerns

By Graeme Mair - Twitter: @gmair 1.   Last Updated: 04/12/12 12:07pm

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England's series-levelling victory over India in Mumbai last week was notable for its reliance on spin bowling.

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar shared 19 wickets at the Wankhede Stadium, outbowling their Indian counterparts Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin and are certain to be paired together again for the final two Tests as England chase a first series victory in India since 1985.

But beyond Swann and Panesar - who are both now into their 30s - how deep is the pool of slow-bowling talent in the county game?

Not very, according to former England spinner Norman Gifford, who played in 15 Tests and took 2,068 first-class wickets.

"Our performance (in India) has been brilliant but what slightly worries me is do we have the depth behind Swan and Panesar? I don't think we have at the moment... When you look at the 18 counties, there are not many spinners playing in first-class cricket."
Norman Gifford

Gifford said: "Our performance (in India) has been brilliant but what slightly worries me is do we have the depth behind Swan and Panesar? I don't think we have at the moment.

"You've got young Danny Briggs, who has done well, you've got Azeem Rafiq at Yorkshire, George Dockrell at Somerset, and the young Simon Kerrigan at Lancashire.

"But, when you look at the 18 counties, there are not many spinners playing in first-class cricket."


The statistics from last summer back up Gifford's concerns, even taking into account the early block of County Championship fixtures during seamer-friendly April and May.

Excluding Swann and Panesar, a total of four England-qualified spinners took 30 first-class wickets in 2012 and one of those, Gareth Batty, has already been tried and found wanting at international level.

The next in line for England is Kent captain James Tredwell, who has joined up with the Test squad for the final two matches in India.

Tredwell took six wickets in his solitary Test to date in Bangladesh two years ago and has starred at county level for many years - although he claimed just 19 first-class scalps in 2012.

Among the younger options, Kerrigan and David Wainwright - left-armers at Lancashire and Derbyshire respectively - are the only other spinners who could be considered key members of a county bowling attack in the four-day game.

Both bowled more than 500 overs last season and each ended up with exactly 50 first-class wickets, albeit at an average the wrong side of 30.

Wainwright will be stepping up to Division One next season, while Kerrigan has gone the other way after Lancashire - champions in 2011 - were relegated.

David Wainwright: flourished in first season at Derbyshire

Moeen Ali, a top-order batsman who can also bowl spin, managed 33 wickets in a Worcestershire team that was also relegated.

He falls into the category of Samit Patel; someone who can provide a useful bowling option but would have to earn England selection as a batsman.

There is also Ireland's Dockrell at Somerset. The 20-year-old claimed 35 wickets at an average of 28.45 in his first season of county cricket - and, if he wants to, could follow the path into Test cricket taken by Eoin Morgan.

Yorkshire had so much faith in leg-spinner Adil Rashid and off-spinner Rafiq that they allowed Wainwright, whose opportunities were limited, to walk to Derbyshire at the end of the 2011 season.

Rafiq, 21, showed promise and averaged 25.39 for his 28 first-class wickets, while Rashid - once the great hope for the future and still only 24 - seems to have become a limited-overs specialist.

Hampshire left-arm spinner Briggs represented England at the World Twenty20 earlier this year but is another who is relied on by his county mainly in the white-ball formats.


While there are some talented spinners coming through in the county game, the worry is they are not being developed in a way that will prepare them for Test cricket.

Gifford believes the lack of spin-assisted wickets in county cricket is another factor.

"When I first start, there were uncovered wickets and you'd go into a game with at least two spinners, an off-spinner and a left-arm spinner," he said.

"You got wickets that turned as well, at places like Cheltenham and Swansea for example, so you had to have that balance in your attack - and we've lost that a little bit."

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