Positive spin: How woeful England can prevent a slow death in Sri Lanka
21:00 GMT, 24 September 2012
England have progressed to the Super Eight stage of the World Twenty20 despite the worst short-form defeat in their history at the hands of India in Colombo. But is it possible to sift through the wreckage to find reasons to be cheerful ahead of the second-stage games against the West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka
Play it straight
England may have tried to put a spin on their batting collapse against India at the Premadasa Stadium by reminding us of their one-day series victory over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
Stumped: Graeme Swann is dismissed against India
However, the bemused look on batting coach Graham Gooch’s face as six wickets fell to slow bowling in seven overs said it all. England repeatedly fail to cope with good spin bowling in Asian conditions and have done for years.
The warning signs were there again when Saeed Ajmal took four wickets in the warm-up game against Pakistan, and Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla suddenly looked like world-beaters even though they are hardly among the more mysterious of the modern breed. Ravi Ashwin is the senior Indian spinner these days but thankfully he was rested.
Gooch will be banging on about the need to play much straighter all this week.
Another one bites the dust: Morgan is bowled out
Next three dangermen…
Sunil Narine – West Indies
Has made his name in Twenty20, taking 10 wickets in last year’s Champions League before hitting the jackpot in the 2012 IPL auction with a move to Kolkata. Looked raw on Test debut at Edgbaston last summer but will be the biggest threat to England on Thursday.
Dan Vettori – New Zealand
England know all about Dan the man – he has been bowling against them since 1997, making his first-class and Test debuts against them. He won’t have anything England haven’t seen but remains a canny competitor and a man to respect when they meet on Saturday.
Ajantha Mendis – Sri Lanka
If England need to win their final Super Eight match on Monday, they will fear Mendis. The man who invented the ‘carrom ball,’ which is flicked out of the front of his hand by his middle finger, has had less success since star batsmen began playing him less as a spinner and more as a medium-pacer but remains a formidable proposition at home.
Fear of the unknown
If Harbhajan can take four for 12, what can the mystery spinners awaiting England next do to them
Sunil Narine barely turned a ball when he made his Test debut against England this summer but he is a different proposition entirely in the short game, having made his name in the Indian Premier League. Expect him to be the West Indies’ main threat in Pallekele on Thursday.
Ajantha Mendis of the hosts is much more experienced but has been less of a threat in recent times after being ‘worked out’ by most of the world’s top batsmen. Right on cue, he took six for eight in his first game in this tournament.
And if Mendis is not enough, Sri Lanka could unleash their new teenage spin-bowling find, Akila Dananjaya. At least New Zealand’s threat comes from the more orthodox Dan Vettori.
England insisted they wanted to try out a new balance to their side by bringing Tim Bresnan in for Samit Patel on Sunday, but the Yorkshireman is a worry because he has just not seemed the same since undergoing surgery on his elbow early this year.
England’s policy of hitting India short and hard, eschewing yorkers for the most part, just did not work and Patel’s stature was hugely enhanced by his absence.
Left out: Samit Patel (left) took two wickets against Afghanistan
They will not admit it but England would love to be able to add Kevin Pietersen to their line-up right now. It may not be too long before he is back but not quick enough for this tournament.
England defeated South Africa, Australia, Pakistan and Afghanistan in little over a week before their Indian setback and are in the weaker of the two Super Eight groups.
Two victories out of the three games should take them to the semi-finals and they will still have every confidence that they can at least reach the final four in their attempt to become the first team to successfully defend a World Twenty20 title.
Green with envy
Pallekele, a newish, picturesque ground near Kandy, where all three of their Super Eight games will be played, should suit England’s seamers more than Colombo.
Food for thought: Broad's side move to seam-friendly Pallekele
The wickets there are expected to be greener and have more pace and carry and, on paper, England have the best attack in Group One.
England are convinced that the way forward is to keep wickets intact even in the shortest form of the game so that the middle order of Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are not exposed until the second half of the innings.
They failed to pull that off on Sunday but if they do, then all three have shown how destructive they can be.
The chosen Swann
Graeme Swann was as effective as Harbhajan and Chawla on Sunday and remains as good as any spinner in the world, even though his chronic right elbow will have to be nursed through an extremely busy winter.
And don’t forget England have Danny Briggs who has made an excellent impression in the shorter game both for Hampshire and in his limited England chances to date.
This tournament is being played at the end of Sri Lanka’s rainy season so there will be an element of chance in the remaining matches – there are no reserve days – which may or may not suit England. All is still to play for.