Leggie's lessons reap records in India

Rashid betters Warne as spinner's hard work and rapid improvements translate into wickets

Adil Rashid would no doubt be embarrassed by the comparison but statistically, at least, he has enjoyed a better Test series in India than the great Shane Warne ever did.

The England leg-spinner has long been championed by Warne, a man who ended his career with 708 Test wickets.

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Warne, though, never took more than 14 during a single series in India, a mark Rashid passed on the second day of the third Test in Mohali.

Australia, of course, won the series that Warne produced his best return in – back in 2004. The Victorian took 10 on each of his previous visits to India in 2001 and 1998.

England’s fate in this current series remains in the balance – India, who are 1-0 up, closing to within 12 runs of their opponents’ first-innings total at the end of day two on 6-271.

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Whatever the result, though, Rashid’s progress over the past few weeks has been remarkable.

When the England team set off from London on September 29 ahead of their back-to-back tours of Bangladesh and India, Rashid’s Test average stood at 69.50. He had played just three matches, all against Pakistan in the UAE last year.

Four Tests later and that average is now below 40, with his 23 wickets in the quartet of Tests against Bangladesh and India coming at 28.69 apiece.

No English leg-spinner has matched his 16 wickets in a series in India. 

Now, given Warne’s entire career average was 25.41, any comparisons between Rashid and the Australian are frankly ridiculous.

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Yet the fact another leg-spinner from outside the subcontinent is becoming an emerging force in the game should be welcomed.

Rashid’s two wickets during the final session of the second day in Mohali contrasted starkly.

The first, of Cheteshwar Pujara, was the result of a rank long hop India’s No.3 smashed to cow corner. Unfortunately for Pujara, Chris Woakes pulled off a stunning catch to turn an awful delivery into a wicket-taking one.

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Rashid’s next over brought a rather more satisfying wicket, Ajinkya Rahane flummoxed by a googly that saw him trapped lbw.

Another Australian, the late great Richie Benaud, holds the record for the most Test wickets by a visiting leg-spinner in India, taking 29 on his country’s tour of 1959-60, while he also took 23 in 1956-57.

If Rashid gets anywhere close to either of those tallies, England will probably have had a better series than they are expecting right now.

Even if the Yorkshireman doesn’t, he can be happy with the progress he has made in such a short space of time.

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Much of that has been down to the tutelage of former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who is working with England on this tour.

Rashid, though, is letting any praise – or comparisons – pass over his head right now.

“I've been working hard in the nets, on some technical things – working out batsmen, field placings,” he said.

“It’s also being really confident, having that belief you can get the best players in the world out. Things sometimes go your way, sometimes they don’t. At the moment, it’s going very well.

“I don’t really look to get any praise from anybody, the media or whatever – I just look to keep my head down and concentrate in practice.”

It’s a method that has worked for Rashid over these past few weeks. England will hope he can continue improving over the remainder of this five-match series.

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