Adil Rashid is a star for England in white-ball cricket but should he be given another Test chance?
A glance at the ICC bowling rankings for T20I cricket highlights the strength in depth of the spin bowling resources currently on show around the world.
Each of the top seven places is occupied by a spinner, with the Afghanistan pair of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman taking the top two positions.
Slotting in at No 4 is England’s Adil Rashid, who has become one of the first names on England’s team sheet since his recall to national colours after the disappointment of the 2015 World Cup, taking more wickets than any other bowler in ODI cricket in that time period:
Leading ODI wicket-takers since 2015 World Cup
Despite his continued success in the white ball forms of the game, Rashid’s Test career has stuttered and was perfectly summed up on his debut at Abu Dhabi in October 2015. In Pakistan’s first innings he endured the chastening experience of 0-163, taking Bryce McGain’s unwanted record for the most runs conceded in innings without taking a wicket on Test debut.
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However, he roared back in the second innings with figures of 5-64 to nearly bowl England to a miraculous victory. He not only became the first England leg-spinner to take a five-wicket haul on Test debut since Charles Marriott in 1933, but also became the first Englishman to take a five-wicket haul on both his first-class and Test debut since Jim Smith (1930 and 1935).
Unfortunately, he failed to fire in the remaining two Tests in the series, taking only three wickets in total, and it was a year before he appeared again for England in red-ball cricket, taking the field in Bangladesh.
He took 4-52 in Bangladesh’s second innings at Mirpur, but that performance was overshadowed by England losing all ten wickets in a single session to subside to a humiliating defeat.
In the series in India which followed, he was England’s leading wicket-taker with 23 victims, but that was also overshadowed by a 4-0 series defeat in which England twice lost by an innings having scored at least 400 in their first innings.
That experience was enough to persuade him to sign a white-ball only contract for Yorkshire in February 2018 and it was with some controversy that his white-ball form led to a surprising recall to England’s Test side to face India at Edgbaston that summer after the sixth-longest gap between a previous first-class match and a Test appearance for England:
Longest gap between first-class match and Test appearance for England
Retaining his place for the second Test at Lord’s, he provided just the 14th instance of a player being of a winning Test team without batting, bowling, taking a catch or effecting a stumping. Despite that, he played all five Tests in the series, taking ten wickets at a decent-enough average of 30.90, but only good enough to finish seventh in the list of England bowling averages in a series dominated by the bowlers.
Next on England’s agenda was a three-Test tour of Sri Lanka. Confounding the odds, they won all three Tests, with their triumvirate of spinners consisting of Rashid, off-spinner Moeen Ali and slow left-armer Lack Leach sharing 48 wickets between them. It was just the third time England had whitewashed a three-match Test series outside England – and the first time in Asia:
England 3-0 series whitewashes away from home
Rashid’s most recent Test outing came in the first Test of the subsequent Test series in the Caribbean at Barbados. England’s batting failed first time around to the tune of 77 all out, and Jason Holder made hay as Rashid’s nine overs cost 61 runs without success.
With a Test career bringing him a total of 60 wickets at an average of 39.83 in his 19 Tests so far, he at least has the crumb of comfort that it is superior to his two most recent England leg-spinning predecessors.
Ian Salisbury’s 20 Test wickets cost 76.95 apiece and Chris Schofield didn’t actually manage to take a wicket in his two Tests back in 2000 when he was the recipient of one of England’s first tranche of central contracts.
Time may yet be on Rashid’s side as he is still 32 years old, which begs the question: at what age do most Test spinners reach their peaks and is there a way of calculating this? Three-thousand-and-thirteen men have played Test cricket so far, and the best measure of current form and peak performance are the ICC Player Rankings.
For Test bowlers, 437 bowlers have achieved a peak rating of at least 450 from the great Sydney Barnes at 932 to Jack Leach down at 450. The average age of all of these is 29 years 8 months with Nasim-ul-Ghani the youngest at 18 and Bert Ironmonger the oldest at 51!
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However, it can be taken one stage further – they can be split between pace bowlers and spinners. Pacemen reach their peak Rating at an average age of 29 years 2 months, whereas spinners are somewhat older – at 30 years 6 months.
So Rashid may be around his peak in terms of the combination of physical and intellectual ability and could still play an important role for England in the longest form of the game. Of course, in home matches, he would have to form an orderly queue behind Dom Bess and Jack Leach, not to mention the mercurial Moeen Ali.
However, on foreign soils he may well be given the chance to play as part of an England spinning corps which brought such unexpected results not only in Sri Lanka last time out, but also in India in 2012 under Alastair Cook.
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