England could play all-spin attack in second Test, says Brendon McCullum

Shoaib Bashir
Shoaib Bashir arrived in India midway through the opening match of the series - AFP/NOAH SEELAM

Brendon McCullum has floated the possibility of Shoaib Bashir making his Test debut in an all-spin attack when England’s series with India resumes on Friday.

On Sunday McCullum’s England side pulled off a heist in Hyderabad, recovering from a 190-run first innings deficit to win by 28 runs.

They have now travelled to Visakhapatnam, where the series continues on Friday, having been joined at the weekend by Bashir, after he overcame his difficulty securing a visa. Bashir, who is of Pakistani heritage, had to travel back to London from Abu Dhabi to secure a visa.

The performance of Tom Hartley, who took seven for 62 on debut, may embolden England’s notoriously brave selectors to cap another long-limbed spin-bowling youngster in Bashir.

After Mark Wood went wicketless in Hyderabad, Somerset’s Bashir could even appear in an all-spin attack, if conditions require. Speculation has been rife over the sort of pitch India could serve up for the remainder of the series, and England will take a view on Wednesday, when they first train in Visakhapatnam.

They will also monitor the fitness of Jack Leach, the senior spinner who has a knee injury. Scans have cleared Leach of significant damage, but he is still suffering from swelling and limited movement that lessens his chances of playing.

“Bash, he was obviously with us during our camp in Abu Dhabi and he really impressed with his skillset,” McCullum told SENZ radio. “He fitted in seamlessly within the group and he’s a guy who’s got an immense amount of enthusiasm, albeit at a young age and pretty limited in his first-class experience.

“Like Tom Hartley, he was a guy who we looked at and we thought he’s got some skills which could assist us in these conditions.

“When he [Bashir] arrived, the boys gave him a huge cheer and he got to witness something pretty special with the fellas bowling us to a Test win. He comes into calculations for the next Test match. If the wickets continue to spin as much as we saw in the first Test as the series goes on, we won’t be afraid to play all spinners, or a balance of what we’ve got.

“We will have a look at the conditions and make a call. You are not going to get every call right, especially in conditions over here, it’s hard to read some of these conditions. But we will make a decision and go quids in.”

McCullum was very impressed with Hartley’s performance, after he recovered from being hit for six first ball to picking up the best figures by an England spinner on debut since Jim Laker in 1948. Hartley did not have first-class statistics that demanded selection before the Test – 40 wickets at 36.6 in 20 matches – but England decided his height would suit Indian surfaces.

Hartley was ‘a bit of a punt’

“He’s only played a handful of first-class games and was probably a bit of a punt, selection-wise,” McCullum said. “But we saw something in him that we thought would work over there and he’s a tough character.

“Let’s not forget - and I think this is quite a pertinent point - Nathan Lyon, he’d only played a handful of first-class games and averaged 40-odd when he first got picked for Australia.

“When you see guys you think are good enough, and who you think are going to suit the conditions, it’s sort of horses for courses. You’ve got to back your judgement… no-one ever foresees 7 for 60-odd on debut, or nine for the match, or 60-odd runs, a run-out and a catch. But sometimes, you’ve got to be a little bit brave with selections. If you like a character and you like their skillset and you think it can be suited to conditions, then it’s kind of an educated punt.”

Ben Foakes is set to keep the wicketkeeping gloves with Harry Brook still unavailable for personal reasons. Foakes believes it is almost impossible to keep wicket in India’s spinning conditions without making a mistake. In the first Test, he kept impressively on the fourth day, but dropped a catch on the second.

“If you go through a test not making many [mistakes] in India, I don’t think that is realistic,” he said. “You are aware things are going to happen, that the ball is going to react and you are not going to be able to react in time. The more extreme the conditions you know things are occasionally going to wrong so you just have to mentally strong enough to put it out of your mind, because the there is a good chance the next one is going to be a tough one.”

Foakes is not sure how the pitches will play for the remainder of the series. In 2021, England took the lead on a flat pitch before the surfaces turned more.

“I think from memory that Test [the first] was played on a flat wicket and then they went to raging bunsens,” Foakes added. “And I’d say this one [Hyderabad] was in the middle somewhere. The last time we were here all [the last] three were probably the worst pitches I’ve batted on.”