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Steve Finn: England’s young spinners succeed despite county schedule – something must be done

England's Shoaib Bashir celebrates taking the wicket of India's Mukesh Kumar with Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes and Rehan Ahmed
Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir have impressed with the ball in India - Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

Former England bowler Steven Finn believes more County Championship fixtures need to be scheduled during the middle of the summer to help England’s spin bowlers.

The five spinners that England have used on their ongoing tour of India – Tom Hartley, Rehan Ahmed, Shoaib Bashir, Joe Root and Jack Leach, who has now gone home with a knee injury – have performed notably well so far, taking 33 wickets in the two Tests.

These have come at a cost of 33.91 apiece, lower than the average for India’s spin attack of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav.

But Finn, who is a pundit for TNT Sports working on England’s series in India, expressed concern that, for all the promise shown by the young spinners, the domestic schedule could stunt their development when they return to county cricket. Next season there are just two rounds of County Championship matches between May 28 and Aug 21.

“For these young guys to be outbowling Jadeja, Ashwin and the like is remarkable,” said Finn, who played 36 Test matches and retired from the professional game last year.

“The fact that the spinners don’t bowl much is because games are played when it’s cold – when it’s damp in April, and as a spinner you can’t grip the ball. And then it’s September and it’s damp and it favours medium pacers as well.

“The ideal scenario would be that more games are played in the height of summer for spinners to be able to bowl more and learn how to win games on the fourth or fifth day.”

Finn said that the county game gave England’s spinners too few opportunities to bowl in spinning conditions when expected to win their side the match, as Tom Hartley did in the opening Test in Hyderabad, when he took 7-62.

“What Tom Hartley did – I don’t know how many times he’d have experienced that for Lancashire but I’d say its very few in comparison to days when he’s just had to hold up an end or it’s cold or he’s bowling because the seamers can’t get a wicket.

“If there was a way to introduce a little bit more four-day cricket into the middle of the summer that would give spinners more opportunity to bowl more overs to develop to learn how to bowl teams out. Then people wouldn’t be performing in spite of the system – I think they’d be benefiting from it.”

England's Tom Hartley reacts after a boundary on his delivery on the third day of the second cricket test match between India and England in Visakhapatnam, India, Sunday
Tom Hartley's match-winning spell propelled England to victory in Hyderabad - Manish Swarup/AP Photo

Ahead of the third Test, in Rajkot, Finn said that he believes picking Mark Wood alongside James Anderson could help England’s prospects of going 2-1 up in the series.

“I think there is an argument for it. We saw how well James Anderson bowled in the last Test match. To have someone bowl at the other end to him would be good.

“I think England could have benefited from someone like Mark Wood’s pace in the last Test match when trying to mop up the tail or break a stubborn partnership.”

Tune in to the third Test of England’s tour of India, live on TNT Sports 1 from 3.30am on Feb 2. Sign up to TNT Sports and discovery+ here

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