Cricket: Headingley spin-friendly? Not so fast

By Andrew Alderson in London

Hopefully, for his team's sake, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has reliable intelligence sources on the ground, literally, at Headingley.

In his media chat after the Lord's loss Hesson pointed out the second test wicket block has been a lot drier than its seaming predecessor this season. He said "spinners have played their part" as a result. This means the team would lean towards playing Daniel Vettori if he proves fit enough to last five days. He will be tested in the coming days after working as a net bowler but getting no game time for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League. Vettori last played a test for New Zealand in July on the West Indies tour.

A look through 2013 Headingley scorecards raises questions about its spin-friendliness.

The best first-class bowling by a spinner has come from former England limited overs bowler Adil Rashid. He took match figures of five for 183 from 50 overs when Yorkshire crushed Derbyshire by an innings and 39 runs at the start of May.

Otherwise match figures suggest it has been a seamer's paradise including a number of five-wicket bags.

Not even England left-arm orthodox spinner Monty Panesar could get a wicket, albeit in early April, when he finished with match figures of none for 64 off 26 overs.
If Vettori is not fit, Hesson will consider calling in Jeetan Patel who is playing at Warwickshire and took a five-wicket bag in his last outing against Yorkshire at Edgbaston last week. Patel played and was subsequently dropped after the tour to South Africa.

However, Hesson did not shut the door on overhead conditions influencing team thinking where Doug Bracewell could play as a fourth pace bowler, but that seems unlikely if Vettori passes muster.

Cloud cover and rain is in the long range forecast. Pakistan are a recent example where they used such conditions to their advantage at Leeds for a three-wicket win in the neutral 2010 test series against Australia. Convicted spot fixers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir worked their magic on that occasion.

Meanwhile, Hesson offered loyalty to Peter Fulton who has struggled with just 34 runs from five innings on tour. The forthright Cantabrian was the feelgood story of the home summer when, at Eden Park, he became just the fourth New Zealand to score two centuries in a test.

English conditions have troubled his game since, despite intense extra workouts with batting coach Bob Carter. Fulton's dismissals have included a couple of lbws and an awkward waft with limited footwork at a Stuart Broad ball in his second innings at Lord's.

Hesson has endorsed him to open at Leeds rather than being tempted to usher back Martin Guptill.

"He's disappointed with the shot he played yesterday, there's no doubt about that, but he's been playing extremely well for us. In his previous test the No 4 [Ross Taylor] only came in for the second new ball so it's hardly an epidemic."

- NZ Herald

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