Batting coach Graham Thorpe believes that England’s batsmen are picking India’s left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav but admits they need to improve their method against him following his 6 for 25 in the first ODI at Trent Bridge.
Yadav’s six-wicket haul in Nottingham, his maiden five-for in one-day cricket for India, was his second match-winning spell of the tour after he took 5 for 24 in the first T20I at Old Trafford. His performances have exposed England’s batsmen who have, at times, looked unsure of which way he is spinning the ball.
Take Jonny Bairstow, yesterday. Well set on 38, he misread a googly from Kuldeep and his attempt to play the ball into the leg-side was thwarted as the ball spun the other way, leaving him plumb LBW. Joe Root, who has been dismissed twice in the three balls he has so far faced from Kuldeep on this tour, misread the length and was also pinned in front, going back to a very full ball.
“From what I’m hearing with my chats with them [the batsmen], it’s not like they can’t pick him — so for me, that’s important,” Thorpe said after the eight-wicket defeat by India at Trent Bridge. “It’s about looking at it logically and then working out a method of playing him. It’s more of the mental side. Also about being proactive with our movements at the crease against him so if you don’t pick him, you’re still in a good position to play him.”
England responded well after the first T20I match at Old Trafford as Kuldeep went wicketless in the next match in Cardiff, and Thorpe knows his batsmen will have to do something similar if England are to pull things back in the second ODI at Lord’s on Saturday. There aren’t many left-arm wrist-spinners about and England will hope that the more they play Kuldeep, the easier things become. “We responded well in the 20-over game and we’ve got to respond well in the 50-over games,” Thorpe said.
“It’s important not to over panic. Our guys who have spent time at the crease against him have come back and said this is happening and that’s happening. You do need to manoeuvre the ball around. And also having the ability to play the bigger shots against him.
“Maybe we handed it a little bit to him. He got three wickets in 11 balls, his tail is then up. I talk about a low-risk way but it’s about scoring runs in a low-risk way. Once you build up a position when he’s [been] kept out of the game a little bit longer, he feels under pressure to take wickets.
“The one thing about him playing is that you start to formulate plans. The more you face the trajectory, the flight, the speed of the ball, they’re the things you pick up on. You’ve also got to set-up as player against it; your method, your footwork, your position on the crease.
“You have to react quite quickly, especially in one-day cricket when you’re always looking for opportunities to score. He shut us down and you have to give him credit. It’s up to us and our players to keep an open mind, accept it’s happened but we’ve got to turn it around pretty quick as we are playing again on Saturday.”
Three of the four white-ball matches so far on India’s tour of England have resulted in heavy defeats for Eoin Morgan’s men, which has been a harsh reality check after the five-nil whitewash of Australia. Following the Trent Bridge defeat, Morgan said that was “healthy” for the development of his side before next year’s World Cup and Thorpe agrees. “It reminds you of your development against spin bowling and that’s something we will continue to look at,” he said. “Teams we play against, when the ball turns, we are going to have to have good plans and cope.
“You need clarity and it’s a good reminder to the team about constantly looking to improve. We’ve done some really good things [in ODI cricket]. We know India are going to be a massive challenge for us. It’s another good reminder of the levels we need to be at all the time if we are to beat the best.”
England’s cause is not being helped by the form of Root and Ben Stokes, both of whom appear to be out of form. Stokes scored a painstaking half-century off 102 deliveries in Nottingham – although Thorpe hopes the all-rounder will better for the time in the middle – while England’s batting coach, who compared the challenge of Kuldeep to the one the South African left-armer Paul Adams posed him during his own England career, isn’t worried about the form of Root despite just two half-centuries and no hundreds in 13 international innings across all formats this summer.
“Joe is probably going through one of those periods in his career over the last month and a half where he hasn’t spent as much time at the crease as he has in the last four years,” he said. “He’s been a brilliant player for England. We probably have to cut him a little bit of slack, support him and encourage him. Sometimes you have to accept what’s going on. He just needs a break in the middle and a score.”
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