As was always going to be the case on a long Asian tour, #England’s #Cricket team were forced into calling up emergency replacements for injured players on Wednesday. Batsman Keaton Jennings and bowler Liam Dawson will join the squad ahead of the final two Test matches in #india, the first of which starts in Mumbai next Thursday.
England are paying the price for a gruelling schedule. Sadly, five Test matches in six weeks has taken its toll. The hugely promising batsman Haseeb Hameed, who was congratulated by opposing captain Virat Kohli for his brave innings at the end of the last Test, has travelled home to have an operation on his hand. Spin bowler Zafar Ansari has also been forced out of the tour with a back injury.
Their replacements, Jennings and Dawson, could be in line to play in Mumbai. Jennings, who was the top run-scorer in County Championship Division One during the summer, will almost certainly play. Dawson is the third-choice spinner behind Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid so his selection depends on the Mumbai pitch as well as the fitness of pace bowlers Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.
Team of batsmen
There is a strong argument that Dawson has been picked as much for his batting as his bowling. He has made an impressive eight first-class hundreds. However, with England 2-0 down in the series, they will need to take 20 wickets in each of the final two Test matches in order to earn parity against India.
England have a notoriously long batting line-up. Fast bowler Broad, with a Test match hundred to his name, has batted at No.11 more than once on this tour. Despite this, England have collapsed to two successive defeats on the back of poor batting performances.
A long batting order can mean that no-one takes responsibility. That certainly seemed to be the case early in the previous Test at Mohali. England lost their first four wickets before lunch on a placid pitch, with three batsmen falling to poor shots. India subsequently outscored them in the first innings by 134 runs and took complete control of the match.
Best spinners at home
Dawson’s selection is therefore puzzling. He took only 20 Championship wickets all season in 2016 and they cost more than 40 runs apiece. Yet he has been picked when England need to win both remaining Test matches.
India have not lost a Test at home since December 2012, the reason being that their spinners excel in home conditions while their batsmen play opposing bowlers with ease. Kohli has scored 405 runs at an average of 101.25 in the first three Tests while looking completely unperturbed by England’s spin attack.
Dawson is hardly going to change that, but there are better options at home. Jack Leach of Somerset claimed 65 County Championship wickets at 21.87 in 2016. His outperformance of Dawson is startling. Granted, he was playing on Taunton’s spin-friendly surface. There is also an argument that he lacks the necessary maturity for international cricket, as pointed out by Somerset captain Chris Rogers. Still, it is surprising that he hasn’t been given a chance in India, where spinners tend to excel.
Another alternative to Dawson is Ollie Rayner of county champions Middlesex. He played a central role in their title-winning campaign, taking 51 wickets at 23.57. Both Leach and Rayner are likely to feel snubbed.
England won the Test series on their last visit to India thanks largely to their spin bowling. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar were superb and outbowled India’s spinners. Following the conservative selection of Dawson, it is hard to see that happening again this time round.