Today’s ODI against South Africa showcased where they and most other international teams have an advantage over England: part time spin bowlers. The combination of the part time spin of Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Dean Elgar picked up 2-39 off 10 overs. That’s a full bowler’s worth of overs at a decent run rate, and two wickets, from three players who were not in any way picked for their bowling.
Most other ODI and T20 teams in the world have this sort of thing. Pakistan are the masters of this, in their T20 team against Australia today, in addition to two specialist spinners they had the part time spinner turned front liner Mohammed Hafeez, and the serviceable off-spin of Shoaib Malik. Australia only picked one frontline spinner in Xavier Doherty, but behind that had Cameron White bowling leggies, off spin from David Hussey and Glenn Maxwell
There also a surprising amount of aggresive openers who bowl off-spin for some reason, the aforementioned Hafeez, Gayle, Dilshan, Sehwag. England don’t have one of those, although if Joe Root gets the vacant openers spot in Tests he bowls some useful off-spin.
At the moment England have Tredwell bowling frontline spin in their ODI team in place of the rested Swann and Patel as something between part time and front line. That’s it though, and there is the problem England might come across in the World T20 in Sri Lanka. Other teams may go in with one or two frontline spinners, but back that up with a bevy of batting all-rounders bowling spin, and part time spinners. England’s squad contains three players who bowl any kind of spin - two specialists and an all-rounder - Graeme Swann, Samit Patel, and Danny Briggs, not a part time spinner in sight.
If Kevin Pietersen had been involved he would have taken that number to four, but compared to every other team’s part timers, he is more of a bowler of flighty filth, rather than of accurate strangulation. Compare that to Pakistan’s squad, which have five frontline or regular part-time bowlers, plus two very occasional leg-spinners. Those five, who are all likely to bowl if they play, and will all be useful. Even New Zealand have five possible spin options, making England look pretty light on the spin front.
That could be a factor which loses the tournament for England. It seems unlikely that the England seamers will have a huge amount of success; Bresnan and Broad are out of form and the pitches are unlikely to be to Steven Finn’s liking. It’s unfortunate that England lack these part time spinners, but it’s hardly surprising, skiddy medium pace of the sort practiced by the likes of Ravi Bopara is more usefully in English conditions. Will this hole in the English attack prevent them winning in Sri Lanka? Very possibly.