Ashes 2010: Is Australia’s spin cupboard bare?

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Ashes 100-1 Countdown: 51 Days Until the Ashes…

David Green aka The Reverse Sweep examines whether Nathan Hauritz would send a chill down an English cricket fan’s spine.

If Australia are to win the Mohali test then it is unlikely that their spinner Nathan Hauritz will play a decisive role (although we could yet fall victim to writing this post in advance). Indeed, one could argue that it was part-timer Marcus North’s removal of Sachin Tendulkar in the Indian first innings that first gave the Aussies a chance of scoring a famous win on Indian soil.

This isn’t even close to an exceptional Australian side, but they are hyper-competitive, never know when they are beaten and will be extremely tough for England to beat on Australian soil come November 25th. But one thing England won’t be losing sleep over is the quality (or otherwise) of the Australian spin attack. And that is quite rare for England teams embarking on a tour down under – especially in recent times.

Australia has given cricket some of its greatest spinners, especially those of the leg-spin variety and they have left a telling mark on the history of the Ashes. The ten leading Australian spinners (in terms of wickets taken) in Ashes encounters is presented in the table below:

Leading Australian Ashes spinners
Player Mat Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 5 10
SK Warne 36 195 8/71 12/246 23.25 2.52 55.10 11 4
H Trumble 31 141 8/65 12/89 20.88 2.23 55.90 9 3
CV Grimmett 22 106 6/37 11/82 32.44 2.25 86.40 11 2
WJ O’Reilly 19 102 7/54 11/129 25.36 1.97 77.00 8 3
AA Mailey 18 86 9/121 13/236 34.12 3.38 60.40 6 2
R Benaud 27 83 6/70 9/173 31.81 2.17 87.70 4 0
AA Mallett 14 47 5/114 6/97 28.63 2.28 75.10 1 0
GE Palmer 11 46 7/65 10/126 19.43 2.20 52.90 4 1
IWG Johnson 22 42 7/42 8/134 37.85 2.07 109.30 1 0
SCG MacGill 6 39 7/50 12/107 24.71 2.72 54.50 3 1
NM Hauritz 3 10 3/63 6/158 32.10 3.10 62.00 0 0

In Shane Warne, Clarrie Grimmett and Bill ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly, Australia have produced three of the best ten spinners of all-time and Richie Benaud and Hugh Trumble weren’t far behind either. Grimmett and O’Reilly even played in the same era meaning that Australia had two deadly leg-spinners operating at the same time – Daryl Cullinan must break out in a sweat when he thinks of having to face two bowlers as good at Warne at the same time.

Incredibly, Stuart MacGill had a better strike rate than all five of the great bowlers named above. However, he was doomed to spend a life in the shadow of Warne and had his test career severely curtailed as a result. Unlike with Grimmett and O’Reilly, Warne and MacGill rarely operated in tandem.

What Ricky Ponting would give to have a ten years younger MacGill available now. Instead, he will have a choice between the limited and unpenetrative Hauritz or the promising but extremely raw Steve Smith (plus the odd over from North (if he keeps his place), Michael Clarke and Simon Katich). Not exactly an embarrassment of riches is it Punter?

Whichever one out of Smith and Hauritz gets the nod, they will probably be asked to keep it tight at one end as Ponting rotates his seamers at the other. What a difference from when Border, Taylor, Waugh and Ponting himself had the attacking Warne to call upon.

England have several good players of spin and if Pietersen, Collingwood and Bell can each find some semblance of form they could really cash in against Hauritz or Smith. England on the other hand have the best spinner currently operating in world cricket in Graeme Swann, which suggests that Adelaide and Sydney may not be prepared in their usual manner. If it does come down to a battle of spin to decide the Ashes, there will be only one winner.

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Comments

  1. Ben Roberts says

    Steve Smith seems to be the obvious choice for the Australian selectors to invest in. A certain S Warne had shown little but natural talent when he was plucked for his first test back in 1992.

    The problem that is likely to be struck is not too dissimilar to what happened to Cameron White. When White first made a name for himself he was a leg spinner who could handle the bat solidly. The ‘modern game’ refused the idea that White should be allowed to develop his bowling at any risk of batsmanship and he became a full time batsman (more suited to shorter forms of the game) and a very part time bowler who struggles to turn the ball and is reduced to bowling ‘darts’ with little or no air.

    Smith likewise can handle the bat well. But if forced to bat too high in the order, say take Norths position at 6, he becomes torn between a focus on being selected for batting or bowling abilities. Leg spin bowling (though I am certainly not one myself) requires dedication to the craft, and cannot be considered a part time role.

    I personally plead with the Australian selectors to protect Smith’s bowling talent and pick him purely based on bowling, batting at 8 or 9.

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