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Bashir justifies England’s punt on inexperienced spinners

“We won’t be afraid to play Shoaib Bashir. Hopefully we’ll see a world-class spinner in the future.”

These were the words of England men’s managing director Rob Key last year before their tour of India began as he praised the potential of the young off-spinner who was propelled into the Test squad after impressing on the Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi.

Entrusted to perform in one of the most challenging destinations in Test cricket, Bashir, like much of this England squad, seemed unfazed.

On day two of the fourth Test, the 20-year-old completed an astonishing 31-over spell either side of tea – taking four wickets in an innings for the first time in his first-class career.

Bashir rattled through India’s top order as he first claimed Shubman Gill (38) to break a promising 84-run stand with the formidable Yashasvi Jaiswal (73), who has scored two double-hundreds already in the series.

The youngster then struck twice in quick succession before tea to trap Rajat Patidar (17) lbw and have Ravindra Jadeja (12) caught by Ollie Pope at short-leg as India faltered on 130-4.

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Ian Ward feels England’s Shoaib Bashir is showing great character in adapting to conditions and challenging the India batsmen as he took four wickets on the second day of the fourth Test.

“For a guy with so little experience of bowling – spinners don’t really mature until the late 20s, and Bashir hasn’t even gotten into the 20s category – the way he has performed in this Test and on his debut, is a great tick in his character box,” said Sky Sports Cricket‘s Ian Ward.

“The pressure to go out there and bowl spin in India is enormous. You only have to look at the great Shane Warne’s stats – he took 43 wickets bowling in India.

“It is not so straightforward that just because you bowl spin you’re going to succeed in India. So, for Bashir to put on a performance like he did on his debut is a great tick.”

Bashir’s relentlessness paid off when he scalped the prized wicket of Jaiswal with a delivery that kept low on a pitch with variable bounce.

When skipper Ben Stokes ran to embrace the youngster you saw how much it meant to England as they swelled with pride.

“Bashir is obviously quite a physically fit guy and brought out some nice subtle changes. It wasn’t just run up and bowl it on a length, he changed his angle, went round the wicket at one point, went in between the umpire and the stumps,” added Ward.

“That’s a little bit of craft that you would associate with a guy far more experienced.

“Bashir isn’t experienced but he’s shown that he can adapt, change and challenge the batters in different ways. I thought Ben Stokes by and large captained him brilliantly.

“You could debate whether he should have been taken out of the attack and then brought back in after a period of rest but the ceiling for him is extremely, extremely high.”

Bashir’s efforts also invited the praise of England’s centurion Joe Root (122no) who batted superbly in Ranchi as the tourists were 353 all out.

Joe Root celebrates his 31st Test hundred against India in Ranchi
Image: Joe Root celebrates his 31st Test hundred against India in Ranchi

“The way the guys have operated was great, the two young spinners in particular – to stand up and perform like it is really encouraging for English cricket,” Root said speaking on TNT Sports.

“Bash [Shoaib Bashir] was brilliant, he’s a great young lad to have in the group. I didn’t know much about him before this series; he’s got a great character and sense of humour and has huge amount of ability and skill.

“He should take a lot of confidence for the rest of the series and the future as well. We’ve had a good couple of days, certainly stuff to build on in the rest of the Test match.

“The wicket looks like it is going to keep deteriorating and getting worse. If we can get three early wickets tomorrow hopefully that puts us in a really strong position for the rest of the game.”

Despite having bowled through the entire afternoon session, Bashir continued after tea with spinner Tom Hartley (2-47) getting in on the act too.

England's Tom Hartley celebrates the wicket of India's Sarfaraz Khan
Image: England’s Tom Hartley celebrates the wicket of India’s Sarfaraz Khan

Bashir powered through some cramps late as India’s Dhruv Jurel (30no) and Kuldeep Yadav (17no) built an unbroken 42-run stand to frustrate England through to stumps as the hosts posted 219-7.

“When I was captain in India in 2016, we’d bowl four or five good balls an over and then we’d always let the pressure off with one bad ball,” said former England captain Sir Alastair Cook on TNT Sports.

“Spinners over the last two or three years for England have also had that bit of a trait. Today was the best I’ve seen England spinners bowl for a long time.

“Bashir and Hartley today, I can only remember four or five balls that I thought, ‘that’s a bit of a pie’.

“We keep mentioning their age, but spin bowling particularly is about learning your trade. It was incredibly impressive from those two.

“The reason Bashir bowled a 31-over spell is because he was on the money pretty much every single ball and the pressure he created.”

Cook added: “You have give a huge amount of credit to the selection panel. They picked a guy who has only played four first-class games to go on an England tour.

“They knew they needed tall spinners and picked Bashir and Hartley. Whoever made that call deserves credit.

“India struggled with the balance of attack and defence and it’s not often you say that about the home side not adjusting to the conditions well.”

On one of the biggest stages, where it’s crucial England win if they are to level the five-match series 2-2, Bashir proved to Stokes, Key and to us that the talk of “world-class” potential was not exaggerated.

England's head coach Brendon McCullum, Ollie Pope, Shoaib Bashir and James Anderson during a training session before their fourth Test
Image: England’s head coach Brendon McCullum, Ollie Pope, Shoaib Bashir and James Anderson during a training session before their fourth Test

At the end of day two, a beaming Bashir led his side off. It was a scene reminiscent of England’s whitewash tour of Pakistan in 2021 where then debutant Rehan Ahmed dazzled with his five-for.

Different bowler, different skills, different country. Same old Bazball.

Follow text commentary of day three of the fourth Test between India and England live on and the Sky Sports App from 3.45am on Sunday (4am first ball).

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