England v Bangladesh, ICC T20 World Cup: Yorkshire CCC star Adil Rashid has the X-factor
EVEN now, 15 years after he burst on the scene, there is no more compelling bowler in world cricket than Adil Rashid.
The style so evident on his Yorkshire first-class debut at Scarborough in 2006 – can it really be that long since he announced himself with match-winning second innings figures of 6-67 against Warwickshire? – is as pronounced as ever, the box of tricks now thrillingly complete, a master craftsman at the top of his trade.
If Rashid is not technically the world’s No 1 T20 spinner – South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi, Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan are ahead of him in the ICC rankings, with Rashid No 4 to highlight the prevailing dominance of spin in the 20-over format – he is as good as anybody on his day.
His style is unique, with so many leg-spinners these days seeming to be Shane Warne clones in run-up and action. Rashid, on the other hand, has always done it his way – graceful, fluid, balletic even, more suited to the backdrop of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, perhaps, than Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.
Now 33, and in the twilight of a career that has brought him over 1,000 wickets in all formats, Rashid – who effectively quit first-class cricket to concentrate on white ball – emphasised his value to England during their evisceration of holders West Indies in Dubai on Saturday in their opening match at the T20 World Cup.
Rashid’s figures of 4-2 from 2.2 overs were not only his best in a 203-match T20 career but also England’s best in T20 internationals, and the joint-cheapest four-for in T20 internationals.
It said everything about his great friend Moeen Ali’s magnificent display, by the way, that Moeen was named man-of-the-match after a wonderful catch and a two-wicket spell first-up triggered West Indies’ descent to 55, England winning by six wickets to get their Super 12s campaign off to a near-perfect start.
As England get ready for their second game against Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi this morning, continuing their pursuit of a World Cup double after Rashid helped them to 50-over glory two years ago, it seems obvious that Rashid will have a big part to play if that grand ambition is to be realised.
The Bradford-born player, who recently signed a two-year contract extension at Yorkshire, continues to blend remarkable control for a leg-spinner with consistent penetration through his leg-breaks, googlies, sliders and goodness knows what else.
Although West Indies batted in a fashion that would do a significant disservice to headless chickens were their work compared to such acephalous creatures, picking out fielders in the deep as though they were human magnets and the ball was made from iron, Rashid stood up to and removed two of T20 cricket’s most dangerous batsmen, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard, bowling the first through the gate with a slider and having the latter caught at long-on by Jonny Bairstow.
Anyone who has bowled leg-spin at any level, even in the humblest match on the village green, will know just what a daunting prospect it must be to bowl leg-spin to Russell and Pollard in T20, but the brilliant Rashid was typically unfazed, once more getting the best players out when he is not making light work of bamboozled lower-orders; not for nothing did Jason Gillespie, the former Yorkshire first-team coach, affectionately refer to him as ‘The Hoover’.
Particularly in the absence of Jofra Archer, with whom Gillespie worked after moving on to Sussex, Rashid is England’s X-factor bowler at this tournament.
Intending no disrespect to a brilliant batting line-up, as good as any on view, England might struggle in pursuit of a World Cup double were it not for the edge that Rashid’s bowling brings.
It is why he remains my favourite bowler to watch in world cricket, and why I lament, also, the loss of his skills to first-class cricket and his piffling total of 19 Test appearances (what were the selectors thinking?).
Rashid took 512 first-class wickets at 35.05 and, lest we forget, scored 6,822 first-class runs at 32.48. Has any modern player with such a record been more under-valued?
In white ball, though, it is a different story. Rashid is appreciated, respected and remains a trump card.
He loves white-ball and, it has to be said, has ultimately justified his decision to concentrate on it, whatever anyone else might feel about that.
In the final analysis, the colour of the ball is largely irrelevant.
For, 15 years after that debut at Scarborough, Rashid remains a sight to behold and we should enjoy his talents while we still can.