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South Africa v England

Bess or Parkinson – Which spinner should England pick for Cape Town?

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

England went with an all-seam attack for their first Test against South Africa, but after slipping to a 107-run defeat at Centurion, and with the surface at Cape Town set to suit spin more, they could well make a change for the second Test.

On the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, Yas Rana, Jo Harman, and Harry Josephs discussed which seamer should miss out, and which, if any, spinner England should pick. First choice in recent times has been Jack Leach, but with the bespectacled left-arm spinner still recovering from the sickness which has swept through England’s touring party, Chris Silverwood and Joe Root may be forced to look elsewhere.

Their two options are Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson. The former is a Somerset off-spinner who only joined up with the squad recently, receiving the call after the severity of Leach’s illness became apparent. He has played two Test matches, both against Pakistan at the start of 2018.

Parkinson, a leg-spinner, is uncapped, but was picked in the initial squad, and has played international cricket more recently than Bess, having appeared in England’s 3-2 T20I series win over New Zealand. Here is what the podcast panel had to say about which spinner England should pick for the second Test against South Africa at Cape Town:

Yas Rana: Do England have to play a spinner? Pick your four best bowlers right?

Jo Harman: I always like a spinner in the attack pretty much whatever the surface, and the feeling is that this surface is going to suit spin a bit more than Centurion. It seems that the sounds coming out of the camp is that Dom Bess has leapfrogged Matt Parkinson which is another issue you could raise with the selectors. Parkinson was picked for New Zealand, Bess wasn’t even really considered for that squad, now is Bess the leading spinner?

What Bess does offer is runs, which he’s already shown in Test cricket for England, and he’s a really good fielder. You get a reasonably whole package, and if your spinner’s not bowling a huge amount, you’re still at least getting something out of them. Unfortunately for Parkinson, he doesn’t offer much with the bat, and he’s not as good a fielder as Bess. I could see them going with that.

YR: And lower-order runs have been one of England’s problems. For so long one of England’s strengths, that was actually one of the big differences between the two teams [at Centurion].

Harry Josephs: Is that letting the batsmen off the hook? Saying we’ll pick Bess because he might give you 10 overs of decent spin and he might contribute a gritty 30. For me you should pick your four best bowlers, and for me you have to pick Parkinson. He was in the squad initially, and then the batsmen are there to score runs.

JH: Yeah, I see where you’re coming from, but I think you need to be perhaps a little bit more pragmatic than that. The issue potentially with Parkinson, and I haven’t seen him bowling, but he’s gone for a few in these tour matches, so they have to make a call. How is he bowling? Is he in decent enough form to make a Test debut, and I couldn’t tell you the answer to that.

YR: Harry, you know Matt Parkinson better than most people in cricket. Is a lot being made of one performance in a warm-up game?

HJ: I think so, yeah. He’s a leg-spinner, traditionally they take a little bit more time to find their rhythm, which then maybe makes it difficult to chuck him into a Test match, I get that. But at the same time, he comes in from playing red-ball cricket for Lancs, and admittedly Division Two is not as good as Test cricket, but he does well every time. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think he was the leading spin wicket-taker in Division Two last year, and he played four games. I think he is the sort who, as the standard he plays goes up, his game would up as well.

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