As we reach the end of a well deserved and thoroughly entertaining ODI series between England and Australia, it’s easy for English thoughts (such as my own) to fixate on the batting. Bairstow, Roy, Hales, Morgan, Buttler, and more were superb over the series, but England’s spin was just as good. How good? Well, Rashid and Moeen are now joint top, with 12 wickets, of the most taken for England in a five match ODI series.
Of course, that’s where I come in.
Without further delay, here is the official (unofficial) ODI spin bowling ladder for England, not based on my opinion of the players’ quality, but where I think they sit in the selectors’ thinking.
1. Adil Rashid
It’s a tight tussle for the top spot, but since Moeen Ali is in the team just as much for his batting as his bowling, Rashid is the number one. Since his return to the England setup in 2015, he’s been the first spinner on the team-sheet and has kept improving. He’s bowled all ten overs allowed in 16 of his last 18 games (and would have done today if Australia hadn’t been bowled out). He’s got 17 wickets in his last seven ODIs. Even if he’s not economical, he picks up wickets and on some days, like at Trent Bridge, he’s pretty much perfect, 4 for 47 on an absolute road. Since 2015, he’s bowled quicker every year and bowled his googly more and more, but still turns enough leg-breaks to keep batsmen honest.
2. Moeen Ali
He just lost out to Adil Rashid for the number one spot, but Moeen’s ODI bowling is impressive, and ever improving. His bowling average may be 44.26, but over his career, he’s shown an ability to keep the run rate down that few other England bowlers of this new era have, with an overall economy rate of 5.08. Against Australia he’s added wickets to that, ripping the ball with renewed confidence. Three of his top six ODI figures were in this series and Morgan has shown confidence in him, using him to great effect in the first power-play, including bringing him on in the seventh over today, to the effect of two quick wickets. Wickets, economy, and versatility, Moeen Ali has become an integral piece of England’s ODI team.
3. Liam Dawson
Since the beginning of England’s “New Era” in ODI cricket, since their first ODIs after the 2015 World Cup, four spinners have taken an ODI wicket for England. Two are obvious of course and are already on this list, one is Joe Root – of whom we shall speak of more soon – and the fourth, with 2 for 75 in one match in 2016 is Liam Dawson. He’s in the selectors’ plans though and if conditions dictate two spinners and one of Rashid or Moeen are unavailable, he may be the go-to man. Dawson may bowl a brand of ODI spin that is more containing than either Moeen or Rashid, but eight wickets in two Tri-Series games against India A and West Indies A for the England Lions and more frequent involvement with the T20i squad will keep him in the selectors’ thoughts.
4. Joe Root
Yes, you heard me right, Joe Root. I mentioned that he is one of the only four spinners to take wickets in England’s new era, but more than that, he’s the all-purpose sixth bowler for England, averaging nine balls a game in his career. Need someone to bowl 10 overs for just 44 to give you plentiful options later? Joe Root. Moeen Ali is rested or injured and you need some overs of passable off-spin? Joe Root. Pitch is ragging square and you want to bowl 30 overs of spin? Joe Root.
His ODI economy rate is 5.79, which is high, but not high enough to stop Eoin Morgan using him. He may not combine a high economy rate with frequent wickets in the way of a Rashid or Plunkett, but his double strike in the World T20 final in 2016 shows what use he can be in unexpected situations; if the opposition don’t expect him or underestimate him, he’ll bowl ten overs of off-spin like dob for surprisingly few runs.
5. Mason Crane
He may have had a difficult time of it in his limited experience of international cricket so far, but if Adil Rashid is injured and England are looking for someone to replace his bowling, another leg-spinner would make sense and England are pretty high on Mason Crane right now. He’s done well in domestic one day cricket and bowled nicely when I watched him against a strong Surrey lineup earlier in the season.
6. Matt Parkinson
The coming leg-spinner. If Mason Crane continues to struggle with injuries, attention might turn to the Lancashire leg-spinner who has quietly built an impressive record in becoming his county’s number one spinner in all formats. He finished as the top wicket-taker in the Royal London One-Day Cup group stages this year with 18 wickets in just eight games, at 18.22. I might have him ahead of Mason Crane, but international experience will out. I wouldn’t bet against him going to the subcontinent on one of England’s tours this winter though, in one of the three formats.
7. Liam Livingstone
More guesswork at number seven. His limited overs batting might be the suit that would get him into the team, but the young Lancashire batsman has bowled both off-spin and leg-spin (settling on off-spin for the moment) and has bowled enough overs across formats to suggest that England would use his bowling more than Joe Root’s if he got into the team. Of course, he needs a place as a batsman first.
8. Dominic Bess
A complete stab in the dark at number eight. England like Dominic Bess and if this was a different era, as the Test spinner, he’d have a place in the ODI team right now. He actually made his List A debut for England Lions earlier this year and added to that with games for the South in Barbados before he made his county one day debut. That debut didn’t go well. In the afterglow of his two Test matches against Pakistan, the focus may have been a little off and James Vince thrashed him about on a flat pitch with small boundaries. He can become a top-class bowler though and in a few years, perhaps that may mean a place in the ODI team too.
So there you go, two men in possession, the England captain’s part-time off-spin, five other possibles, and an ODI ladder that won’t be tested as Rashid and Moeen bowl England to World Cup glory next summer*.
*All predictions are the author’s own ludicrous optimism.
Photograh: Wikipedia (Creative Commons license)