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Spin on their mind as England turn to ‘Merlyn’

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

England have turned their hopes to the state-of-the-art bowling machine, Merlyn, in a bid to counter India’s spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, after a disappointing loss in the first T20I.

Spin was always going to be a major factor in the series, and Yadav proved as much with his five-wicket haul in the opening match. With a lot of their batsmen found wanting against the turning ball, England are hoping the spin-bowling machine will help them prepare.

“One thing we can do with Merlyn is to replicate the angle,” said Jos Buttler, who was one of the few batsmen to look comfortable against the Indian spinners. “It’s a very good machine to get used to that.

“But it was the first time some guys have faced Kuldeep and it may take one or two games, plus video.”

Yadav returned career-best T20I figures of 5-24 bamboozling the batsmen with his left-arm wrist-spin. His wickets included Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Buttler and Eoin Morgan, all key figures in this power-packed England line-up.

Buttler, though, was confident one game won’t define how the series pans out.

“It’s about understanding that you shouldn’t get too flustered,” he said. “With spin it can all happen quickly, suddenly you have faced a few balls and aren’t off the mark, so it’s not allowing that to affect you.

Alex Hales was one of Kuldeep Yadav’s five wickets

“You have to get used to the (bowling) action and once you have faced them a bit more it gets easier. You have a bit more trust and might pick up a few cues.”

Buttler, who looked largely settled on his way to a 42-ball 69 that got England to a respectable score, has been in the purplest of patches of late. He’s found a new dimension to his batting ever since he was asked to open by Rajasthan Royals mid-way through IPL 2018. In his last 13 white-ball appearances he has nine fifties and a hundred scoring freely against all attacks.

‘Being calm is allowing me to make good decisions, which is pleasing’

“It’s a fantastic place to bat,” the 27-year-old said of opening the batting. “It’s been another good challenge for me in my career and refreshing. Whether that’s me opening forever, I don’t know, I’d hope to retain the flexibility. But I do think it’s the best place to bat. But it comes down to the make up of the team.”

Buttler attributed his recent successes to being in better place, mentally. “It’s about accessing the mental side of the game and that’s been pleasing, to work out good routines and staying in the moment in games,” he said.

“You see guys around the world doing that and it’s been a case of trying to work out how they do that.

“But it’s your own mindfulness as well. When I was younger I didn’t pay much attention to that or trust it enough, it was all about technique in practice. Being calm is allowing me to make good decisions, which is pleasing.”

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