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Cricket news - Spin threat - the missing link in Windies' jigsaw puzzle

A lot has been invested in Bishoo by West Indies but he hasn't repaid their faith with consistent performances of late

It is the nightmare scenario doing the rounds in ODI cricket right now, the one no team wants to find themselves in. Bowling to this England batting line-up in the last ten overs of their innings when they have wickets in hand. It's not a job for the feint hearted. Hell, it's not even a job for the toughest of souls. More often than not, it's a situation which leads to serious punishment and in Grenada, it was West Indies' turn to suffer.

England were three wickets down at the end of the 40th over. Captain Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler were well set and ready to tee off which the tourists did to the tune of 154 runs in the last ten overs. It was the most runs England have ever scored in the final sixty balls of an ODI innings, beating the 135 they managed against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2016 on the way to a world-record total of 444.

According to CricViz, over the last four years, England's average run rate in the last ten overs is 8.26, the fastest in the world, so this performance wasn't much of a surprise. It's just what they do. In the same period, West Indies have conceded nearly eight runs an over with the ball at the death, the second worst of any side who has qualified for the World Cup. It's just what they do, too. And at St George's, it wasn't hard to see why.

The home team did not bowl particularly well at any stage and certainly not in the final ten overs. Searching for yorkers, the fast-bowlers bowled far too many full tosses which Buttler in particular kept smashing over the boundary. In such situations, there is not much margin for error, and some of these deliveries were off by just an inch or two, but there were at least half a dozen full tosses dispatched for six in the final ten overs.

Nor did it seem that West Indies had a plan B. Although there was the odd short ball or cutter, they largely persisted with the yorker plan, even when it wasn't working. There were precious few slower ball bouncers, precious few slower balls of any sort actually, and when they did adjust, they served up length deliveries. Buttler was not missing out on length balls today. He rarely misses out on them ever. Only left-armer Sheldon Cottrell emerged with any credit from this phase of the game but even he wasn't spared.

Yet the punishment that Cottrell, Carlos Brathwaite, Oshane Thomas and Jason Holder endured at the death of the innings wasn't solely the result of poor bowling. Even if they had bowled better, England still would have made hay. The real issue for West Indies at St George's was the performance of their two spinners, Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo, who took one wicket between them.

This wasn't a one-off. It has been a chronic issue for West Indies ever since the last World Cup.

To be successful in ODI cricket, more often than not teams need two spin bowlers, one of which ideally needs to be a wrist-spinner, capable of turning the ball both ways. England have Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. India have Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravi Jadeja. New Zealand have Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle and Mitchell Santner. With Nurse's off-spin and Bishoo's leg-spin, West Indies at least have the right idea, trying to emulate the best three teams in the world.

But Nurse and Bishoo simply don't take enough wickets. Bishoo, ostensibly an attacking bowler in the team to make breakthroughs, averages 42 with the ball in ODI cricket and has taken just 15 wickets in his last 27 matches at an average north of 75. Nurse, consistent but defensive, tries to contain, and sometimes does a decent enough job at that, but like Bishoo, he doesn't take enough wickets either.

And wickets are what bowling teams need in the middle overs to try and avoid the chastening experience West Indies suffered at the hands of Buttler and Morgan in this match. During the past two years, between overs 15 and 35, West Indies average 55 runs per wicket with the ball and they take a wicket every ten overs or so. The lack of cutting edge of their spinners has been a key reason for those struggles.

Both slow men were introduced into the attack early by Holder, Nurse in the sixth over of England's innings and Bishoo in the seventh. Immediately, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales attacked. Nurse's first three overs went for 29, Bishoo's first over for 19. It was a brave move but it backfired. Nurse's day got better at least, although he still ended up conceding nearly seven runs an over, but Bishoo's certainly didn't. His ended up with 0 for 43 from just four overs.

West Indies can't afford to accommodate both Nurse and Bishoo in the same team. Nurse, a far more reliable bowler than Bishoo, concedes just over five runs an over in ODI cricket which is decent enough but he doesn't have the tricks in his armoury to be able to rip through teams. He has only taken more than two wickets in an innings four times in his 44 matches and the last time was in April 2017. Nevertheless, he probably has a role to play alongside a reliable, attacking bowler.

Which puts the spotlight on Bishoo. A lot has been invested in him by West Indies but he hasn't repaid their faith with consistent performances of late. He dropped too short, too often today and found minimal turn. He was inconsistent in line and length and it's difficult to recall one false shot against him which doesn't bode well for a bowler meant to be taking wickets. West Indies seem to have decided Bishoo will be one of their World Cup spinners but it's hard to see why.

So, what are the other options? Slow left-armer Fabian Allen is in the squad and should probably get a run out in the final match while Yannick Ottley, who played against England in their warm-up game for the ODI series, took the most wickets in the domestic 50-over competition this season. Sunil Narine would be the best option but he is unlikely to return after an absence of two years from ODI cricket because of concerns over his action. In short, there is no quick fix but the status quo isn't working either.

It's clear that Bishoo and Nurse's inability to take wickets in the middle overs is hampering West Indies. The seam attack has variety, pace and, when Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel return, experience, while the batting order is beginning to bare its teeth too but their slow bowlers are letting them down. It's one of the main reasons they lost this game and ahead of the World Cup, it's a weakness which must be addressed. If they can find a solution, a successful summer wouldn't be out of the realms of possibility.

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