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India v England: Spin struggles continue to haunt Heather Knight’s side after latest batting collapse

India spinner Deepti Sharma took 5-7 as England were bowled out for 136 in their first innings

An English cricket team struggling against spin during a Test match in India is not unchartered territory.

It is one of the sport’s toughest challenges and in the women’s game, with the scarcity of Tests played, arguably even harder.

But for England, their latest collapse to 136 all out in Mumbai – having been 79-2 – and with seven wickets falling to spin, is not an anomaly.

Worryingly, it is becoming the norm.

Since the end of the T20 World Cup in South Africa in February, England have lost 87 wickets to spin and just 45 to pace, across all formats.

Their latest collapse was triggered by the off-spin of Deepti Sharma, who took 5-7 in England’s first innings, ensuring they ended day two a mighty 478 runs behind.

During the summer’s Ashes, it was off-spinner Ash Gardner who exploited the frailties, but her player-of-the-series performance with 23 wickets was somewhat overshadowed by England’s overall success in fighting back to draw the series.

But come September’s T20 series against Sri Lanka, it was glaringly obvious that teams had begun to figure out England.

They packed their XI with spinners, and dismantled Heather Knight’s side for 104 and 116 in the last two games to register a shock 2-1 series win.

The trend did not go unnoticed by head coach Jon Lewis, who said after the Sri Lanka defeat that they were “aware” of the problem, and would address it with a training camp in Oman before this winter’s India series as well as a specialist batting camp in Mumbai.

Naturally, change is not going to happen overnight.

Two camps will not solve a deep-rooted struggle, particularly when England’s players are trying to put things right in the trickiest conditions possible. And especially when only one player in England’s line-up – Sophia Dunkley – attended the spin camp (Emma Lamb attended but was ruled out injured and Alice Capsey did not make the XI).

The frustration will be the way in which the same patterns are repeated, the same timid dismissals and sense of panic when the ball starts to turn.

On day two in Mumbai, Danni Wyatt was the first England batter to get out to a spinner and her shot – caught in two minds between going backwards or forwards, resulting in a simple catch to short leg – seemed to send shockwaves through the rest of the line-up.

Sophie Ecclestone at seven and Charlie Dean at eight – both capable batters but most likely a position too high here – went back in their crease defensively and ended up bowled and lbw after tentative prods.

Nat Sciver-Brunt, the only England batter to find any kind of rhythm, was undone by some sharp turn but it is possible to argue that she played the wrong shot, going back and trying to cut a fuller ball.

An argument could be made about the selection and whether England should have played another batter, but would Capsey or Maia Bouchier – both uncapped at Test level – be likely to have rescued England when they were nearly 300 runs behind already?

Despite Lewis often saying that his desire is for England to be aggressive, to take the positive option, that did not materialise either.

In India’s first innings, they attacked 36% of their shots against spinners compared with England’s 29%, showing more confidence to play from the front foot and trust their defence when necessary.

This series was billed as a vital one for England as they prepare for next year’s T20 World Cup in similar conditions in Bangladesh, and the 50-over World Cup that follows in India a year later.

They can take confidence from winning the T20 series, but these latest batting woes will not go unnoticed by opposition around the world, in the era of analysis and video footage being so readily available.

Until then, England still have two days left of their tour and are nearly 500 runs behind on a turning pitch.

It does not get much tougher than that.

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