England needs to make better use of Dawson

By opting for a left-arm-spin bowling all-rounder Liam Dawson in place of pace bowling multi-dimensional cricketer, Chris Woakes, England also looked better balanced at Chepauk during the fifth test of the series.

Liam Dawson practices during a net session in Chepauk.   -  Getty Images

Picking the right eleven is an art. This is when the team-management gets together to select the best possible combination to win a match under given conditions.

It’s a scenario where the different arms of the team move in cohesion. And the bases are largely covered. In the third and fourth Tests, England got its eleven hopelessly wrong. In Chennai, the visitor finally appeared to have got this crucial aspect right.

By opting for a left-arm-spin bowling all-rounder Liam Dawson in place of pace bowling multi-dimensional cricketer, Chris Woakes, England also looked better balanced at Chepauk.

The series has already been decided yet zeroing in on the most productive team composition is a process and a habit that builds successful units. Earlier on the tour, the English tactics had back-fired.

Take the third Test at Mohali for instance. England’s best chance for victory in that northern Indian town at this time of the year hinged on picking an additional paceman, bowling first, exploiting the moisture on the track to make early inroads, and then cashing in on the momentum to dictate the course of the match.

England got the spin of the coin right, but chose to bat and was dismissed for 283. There was no coming back in the Test. And the manner the extra spinner Gareth Batty was employed – he bowled only 19.2 overs in the match – showed the absence of a clear game-plan.

Since England possessed a genuine pace bowling all-rounder in Ben Stokes, it also had the flexibility of going in with three seamers and two spinners, and drafting in an additional batsman. Eventually, Batty was picked and under-bowled.

In Mumbai, when England was confronted with a dry, hard surface that was certain to provide spinners turn and bounce, the think-tank did the unthinkable. It actually went in for an additional paceman in Jake Ball at the expense of an extra spinner.

Why in the world would an English side want four pacemen in James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Stokes and Ball on that surface at Wankhede Stadium only skipper Alastair Cook might be able to answer.

There were times on the pivotal third day when England desperately seemed to need an additional third spinner, an off-spinner in particular. Here, the fourth paceman was worth little.

By bringing in Dawson, a defensive left-arm spinner here, England might be seeking to provide greater control and stability to its spin attack where both Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have been leaking runs.

But then, selecting a player is one thing and making full use of him quite another. The idea behind playing left-arm spinning all-rounder Zafar Ansari in the second Test at Visakhapatnam could not be faulted but he came so low down the order and sent down so few overs that he seemed without any clear role definition.

England needs to make better use of Dawson. At the end of the day, no place in the XI should be wasted.