In England, it’s natural to expect greener pitches, making pacers the prime focus. But this Thursday, with the start of the fourth Test between India and England at Oval’s, the conditions favored spinners. So the talk for England’s option for the same became the talk of the town (Indian camp too had their share of buzz with their overlook of R Ashwin…again).

In the previous decades, England has given out quality spinners, considering traditionally English pitches don’t offer much for the spinners to grow. But the apparent lack of option at the Oval just highlighted the space of the much-needed spinner/s in the England Test squad.

So let’s have a look at how it has been the case with the English spinners this year.

Wickets by English Spinners in 2021 cricket analysis stats
Wickets by English Spinners in 2021 (till the 3rd Test vs India at Leeds)

Moeen Ali

Probably the most sought bowler in the English Test squad due to the all-rounder dimension which he brings in, Moeen Ali has proved to be the most dangerous of the English lot. A career strike rate superior even to Swann, Laker, and Monty, Moeen has been the go-to man for England to fulfill the role of spin. But still, the year of 2021 for Moeen in red ball terms has been lackluster as the numbers clearly show that.

Jack Leach

The duo of Jack Leach and Dom Bess in the subcontinent may have created some problems for the respective hosts, but the inconsistency in the latter part of the Indian tour saw both of them running out of favors from the team management. The most successful of the four in this list, Jack undoubtedly must be frustrated by his omission from the team.

Englands Spinners in 2021- cricket analysis stats
England Spinners in 2021 (till the 3rd test vs India at Leeds)

Dom Bess

Even though 2021 can be considered a better year (compared to his overall international performance) for Dom Bess, his inconsistencies in landing the ball reliably saw him get ousted after the third game against India in their March edition of the Indian encounter in the subcontinent.

Joe Root

A surprising (or not so surprising) name on this list, the first half of 2021, saw even the English captain throwing in some overs. In recent times, the man who is singlehandedly (and quite effortlessly) balancing the batting side had to pitch in support to the bowling unit. Joe’s ‘golden arm’ proved to be a good backup and won a test match in India. But even Joe knows that this cannot be a regular occurrence, and the team will soon run out of options if the selection does not provide the opportunities.

Some County options England should consider

Mason Crane

A reserve player in England’s Test squad for their series against India, Mason Crane is probably the most overlooked leg spinner in today’s game. Even though for most of the Indian series he was found in the nets, the immediate reactions in the following England winters was where Mason proved himself. With an impressive strike rate of 29.80 in list A cricket, the young lad might still not be seen in the red ball game but is undoubtedly making a case for his place in white-ball cricket.

Matt Parkinson

Mason’s partner in the reserve squad in the subcontinent, Parkinson, too had similar career paths as that of Mason. Currently, the legbreaker has been brilliant in the county championship, bagging 31 wickets at an impressive average of 21.41. Known for his white-ball exploits, Parkinson seems to be the high probable to get a call up to the main squad.

Comparison of county spinners - cricket analysis stats
Performance of Crane, Parkinson twins & Carson in First Class Cricket
(Stats Credit: espncricinfo)

Callum Parkinson

At the moment, the no. 1 spinner in the County Championship, the other half of the Parkinson twins is undoubtedly making some noises in the red ball game. Playing for Leicestershire, Callum has bagged 41 wickets, comprising three 5-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket haul this season. Like his brother Mark, Callum is predominantly known for his white-ball performance, but his recent county success indeed has attracted our attention.

Jack Carson

Sussex’s leading wicket-taker in the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy, Carson has been creating a buzz right from his debut last year. Currently holding 31 wickets at an average of 31.77 in 20 innings this County Championship, he has continuously created chances for Sussex. An Irish by birth, England might want him to make his international debut as an Englishman as soon as possible

Conclusion

Over the years (especially after Graeme Swann’s departure), England have been looking for a reliable name to fulfil a solid spinning option role. They saw a glimmer of hope in the form of Moeen Ali and Jake Leach at times, but lack of consistency in their respective games and (absence of) backing by the management saw the English go on to the pacers without missing a beat. So maybe if the freedom which the limited format captain (as claimed by many former English players time and time) gets is given to Root, things might shape positively and may create some more chance for the coming Ashes for England.