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3 reasons why England struggle vs spin

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Last Updated on 3 years by Charbel Coorey

3 reasons why England struggle vs spin | Looking at three key reasons why England struggle against spin in the subcontinent against India

Before the start of England’s Asia campaign, the point that was being stressed was how the English batsman will counter spin bowling.

England then swept Sri Lanka 2-0 to start things on a good note. However, there too it was basically a one-man show as Joe Root led the way with 426 runs. No one apart from the England skipper was able to get to three figures. England was baffled by the left-arm spin of Lasith Embuldeniya in the last tour and it seems like the demons of the Sri Lanka tour are still hovering over the England batsmen.

The newly-formed spin duo of Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin have asked tough questions to the visiting batsman in the last two games on turning pitches. The tourists have found it tough to tackle the spinners and that’s why they haven’t crossed the 200-mark in the last four innings.

As it turned out, they looked like a cat on a hot tin roof when put against the Indian spin twins. Here we find 3 reasons why England have been struggling against spinners:

1. Losing the mental battle

3 reasons why England struggle vs spin | Looking at three key reasons why England struggle against spin in the subcontinent against India
3 reasons why England struggle vs spin: Ashwin has mental edge over batsmen.

Arguably the biggest challenge to a cricketer is not the learning of the skills, but being able to deal with the many psychological factors that can affect thinking and, ultimately, performance during a game.

The biggest examples from the last 5 games England played against Asian teams are their inefficiency to tackle the left-arm angle and the battle between Ashwin and Ben Stokes. Stokes looks in 2 minds whenever he takes guard against India’s ace spinner. The fact that Ashwin has dismissed Stokes the most number of times (11) shows the mental aspect of Stokes’ batting that has kept him quiet in the series.

Also, since Embuldeniya’s exploits in January, the English batsmen have been vulnerable to the left-arm spinners. It’s the angle that is creating doubts in the batsmen’s minds. On some occasions, they play for turn and it goes straight after pitching. A ball ripping past the edge has such a profound effect that any straight ball afterwards becomes so dangerous. These little things have played a huge role in England’s faulty approach against the slower bowlers.

2. Questionable technique

3 reasons why England struggle vs spin | Looking at three key reasons why England struggle against spin in the subcontinent against India
3 reasons why England struggle vs spin: England got out to many straight balls.

If there’s little assistance from the wicket for the spinners, the England batsmen don’t seem to have the technique to fall back on. Data from the last Test shows that out of the 30 wickets that fell in the 2-day affair, 21 were off straight deliveries. On 12 occasions, England batsmen got out while playing for the turn and got beaten off the inside edge to get LBW/bowled.

Moreover, the visiting batsmen missed a trick by not playing the ball with soft hands. Whenever a SENA team travels to the subcontinent, the first thing they should look to do is play the ball to its merit and with softer hands to take the advantage of the low bounce.

Sadly for England, their batsmen have failed to do so. They’ve failed to cut down the angles of the spinners. The awkward angles are making it difficult for the batsmen to comprehend. Also, the lack of intent and less proactive approach has allowed Axar and Ashwin to hit their areas rather than disturbing their lines by counter-attacking them. With a conservative approach, they’ve permitted the spinners to dictate terms.

3. Indecisive footwork

3 reasons why England struggle vs spin | Looking at three key reasons why England struggle against spin in the subcontinent against India
3 reasons why England struggle vs spin: Footwork has been a problem for England.

On a pitch that is turning, gripping and bouncing, footwork becomes very important. The primary thing obviously is to get close to the ball, and stop it from spinning. But in case if it’s bowled short, play as late as possible – that way you are letting the ball do its bit. Now what the Englishmen have done is hang back to play everything off the backfoot. Naturally, the improvement comes by training the feet to move early and instinctively as soon as you pick up the line and length out of the bowler’s hand.

Ollie Pope for that matter has tried to combat Ashwin by coming down the track and got out two times in the series. This instinctive early footwork hasn’t worked for him. While facing a spinner, they need to repress the instinctive urge to move the feet before the ball is released. Instead, stand still and watch the ball as closely as possible until it starts to descend. The indecisive footwork of the batsman has been a worrying factor for the English camp. Standing still allows better judgement of dip and turn. With a more accurate idea of intercepting the ball, one can then use footwork to play a confident stroke.


England’s hopes of an appearance in the World Test Championship Final is gone. But, they can still leave India with a credible 2-2 draw if they can put in a better display in the final Test. It starts with playing spin a lot better than they have so far.

Written by Vaibhav Tripathi. Follow Vaibhav on Twitter today.

Vaibhav Tripathi
Vaibhav Tripathihttps://twitter.com/V_Trips7781
Vaibhav is a passionate cricket fan and writer from India. He specialises in match previews, news and opinion. You can follow him on Twitter (x) at: https://twitter.com/VTrips_7781

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