Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after taking a wicket. Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after taking a wicket. Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates after taking a wicket. Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abid
Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates after taking a wicket. Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abid
India surprised friend and foe to claim the ICC Champions Trophy in the UK four years ago. Even with heavy rain sweeping across Birmingham for most of the final, MS Dhoni hauled out his spinners to tie England into a spiteful web.

For so long teams from the subcontinent had come over to England expecting a pasting, owing to both the clouds above and grass underfoot that promotes swing and seam bowling.

India’s endeavours were, of course, aided by excellent work from the Edgbaston ground staff who managed to keep the pitch bone dry, which allowed Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin to make the ball turn, bounce and spit like they do so splendidly back home.

The 2017 edition is set to be played at the same three venues this time around, and not at Lord’s where Kagiso Rabada and Co prospered on a green-tinged pitch on Monday that had England captain Eoin Morgan – a casualty from that 2013 final defeat – criticising the surface after his team were reduced to 20/6 within the first five overs.

So, expect the curators at the Oval, Edgbaston and Sophia Gardens to haul out their lawnmowers to ensure all their pitches are devoid of any grass, especially with Morgan specifically pointing out after Monday’s defeat: “I’d be disappointed if we did come across surfaces like that in the ICC Champions Trophy. There was a lot of live, green grass on the wicket.”

This, in turn will only increase the spinners’ significance in this upcoming Champions Trophy, with captains most often expecting their spinners to keep a tight leash on the run-rate during the middle overs and, hopefully, pick up a couple of wickets to stem the tide. 

“I have no doubt the wickets are not going to look anything like Lord’s. They are definitely going to be a lot flatter and that possibly even allow teams like South Africa to play two spinners,” said former Proteas left-armer Robin Peterson, who played in the 2013 edition.

“Since the 2015 World Cup, England have really transformed their ODI side and a lot of that has to do with the attacking style of cricket they want to play. You can’t play that type of cricket on pitches that move around, so that does bring the spinners into the game later on and as the tournament moves towards the back end.”

So, will Edgbaston be a replica of Eden Gardens then? “No, no… you’re still playing in England and your seam bowlers will have their opportunity to strike with the new ball,” Peterson said.

“It’s not going to rag around corners either. The ball doesn’t turn that extravagantly in England. But there will be just enough purchase for the spinners. Captains will be glad that they have the variation in their attack that the spinners provide, but it will be interesting to see how the captains utilise their spinners according to the conditions.”

Peterson believes South Africa are well-stocked in the spin department. Imran Tahir is the leading spinner on the international circuit and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj has shown useful promise.

“Immy is world class,” Peterson said. “There’s no doubt about that. He hardly bowls a bad ball any longer. Just so consistent. He also loves the big stage and these ICC tournaments. It’s almost as if he raises his game to a higher level.

“Keshav’s done wonderfully well since his coming into the Proteas environment. He has been superb in Test cricket and now he is getting a chance in one-day cricket. I thought he was unlucky on debut in Southampton with a couple of catches going down, so it was good for his confidence that he picked up a few wickets at Lord’s.”

Imran Tahir (South Africa) The Proteas’ go-to man has simply been sensational ever since debuting back at the 2011 World Cup. Tahir is the chief source of wickets for South Africa during the middle overs and is an integral part of AB de Villiers’ bowling plans. Not renowned for whizzing leg-breaks past the outside edge of the right-hander’s bat, Tahir prefers to attack the wickets and pads with his googly. 

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