Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley have the bendable fingers England are looking for when they tour India next month

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It’s not a great time for English spin bowling, but it is a great time to be an English spin bowler. That’s “the market” for you, we suppose.

It’s hard to think of a more unexpected England Test selection than Shoaib Bashir – not so much out of left field as out of a hitherto undetected trap door somewhere up in the stands.

The Somerset spinner’s six first-class matches make fellow call-up Tom Hartley look like a grizzled 20-game veteran. Throw in the fact that his 10 wickets have cost 67 runs apiece and you imagine there was quite a lot of, “Oh, okay, um…” from the reporters covering the squad announcement.

Everyone is open-minded. When players are promoted so rapidly, it’s often for a reason. Plus you always wish young players well. It just feels a bit bizarre to be wishing Bashir well at this level of cricket when most of us haven’t yet had a chance to wish him well at any level.

We’ve mentioned this before, but we always think of the exacting interview given by Jon Favreau’s character in My Name Is Earl in these situations. “You got all your fingers…? Do they bend? I’ve been fooled before!”

The requirements to be selected as an England spin bowler seem similarly attainable right now. Playing for Somerset often seems to be a significant qualification. (Dom Bess has really made a bollocks of that one.)

Of course the big unknown here is how many people actually applied for the job this time around. Will Jacks and Liam Dawson are exactly the kinds of batter-spinners England usually hedge their bets with in India, but both will instead play The Lucrative SA20 which is taking place at the same time. (We assume a firm called Lucrative is sponsoring the competition because that’s how it always seems to be described.)

We obviously don’t know the ins and outs of any discussions with these players, but it does strike us that with Ben Stokes again only available as a specialist batter, a spin bowling all-rounder or two might have come in handy from a team balance perspective.

The first Test is in Hyderabad from January 25. Barring “a bug that’s swept through the camp” Bashir surely won’t be playing in it. Will he?

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  1. Is Ahmed about to become the new Moeen, in the ‘would you mind anchoring the tail/being the main spinner/filling in at number 5/captaining the team because half the tour group forgot that it doesn’t matter if you only drink bottled water if you get ice cubes in your orange juice, and ended up with the wrong sort of runs…?’ sense?

  2. There’s not much high class spin in the counties right now. Neither Liam Dawson nor Will Jacks feel like the answer on turning tracks in India (c/w the flat tracks England played on in Pakistan.

    Rob Key might feel that England needs to grow its own for the next phase of the national team’s development.

    Leach and Rehan are surely the spinners whose names are inked in to the eleven who will play. If you want a bit of part-time off-spin for variation, Joe Root is more than handy.

    Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir will surely learn a lot by being part of the tour. One or both of them might get a game or two, but only if Plan A has gone awry anyway. If that happens, they’ll play without undue pressure or expectation.

    I’m rolling with it.

    1. If the pitches are anything like last time we toured India, my 91-year-old granny could rock up and take a five-fer.

      1. Ben Foakes was the best of the lot last time among the batters from what I recall. Any room for him?

      2. He’s in the squad. They’re going to have a squat-off against Bairstow to see who keeps, but frankly they’re taking so few batters he’ll probably get a game either way.

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