England are ready to try their luck on a turning pitch in Delhi after watching spinners dominate elsewhere in the World Twenty20.
Their first two matches took place at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, on a track captain Eoin Morgan deemed a “bowler’s graveyard”, losing to the West Indies then beating South Africa in the highest-scoring game of the tournament.
But there has been a different type of cricket unfolding at venues like Nagpur and Kolkata, with slow bowlers enjoying prodigious turn and batsmen struggling to keep up.
England expect the capital’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, where they play their last two Super 10 matches, to be spin-friendly and worked with a handful of local tweakers in a lengthy net session yesterday.
If conditions in the middle confirm their suspicions, Hampshire’s slow left-armer Liam Dawson could be in line for his international debut against Afghanistan tomorrow.
England already have Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen Ali and Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid in their XI and the pair have looked on enviously at some of the pitches on offer in Group 2.
Moeen said: “There’s been some good pitches for spinners to bowl on so far. Every time Adil and I have watched the games we’ve been saying, ‘we’d love to be bowling on that pitch’.
“I didn’t enjoy bowling in Mumbai, it wasn’t really conducive to spin so I hope the other pitches, like here where we play our next two games, will be.
“Obviously, this pitch is going to be a little different, a little bit slower and I don’t expect the runs to be coming as quickly.”
Although Moeen spent his formative years as a top-order batsman who bowled as a sideline, he is now a fully fledged member of the spinners’ union and would be pleased to see Dawson join the ranks.
The 26-year-old, a former England Under-19 captain, scarcely played in last summer’s NatWest T20 Blast and bowled just five wicketless overs for Hampshire.
But he caught the eye of Andy Flower during the England Performance Programme tour of the United Arab Emirates over the winter and could yet have a big role to play.
“I’ve worked quite a bit with him, he’s really good,” said Moeen.
“He can bowl really well with the new ball and the older ball. We’ve got a good side and we’ve just won a game against South Africa so I’m not sure exactly what the captain and coach are thinking, but maybe the guys are talking about playing three spinners.
“It would be a good idea I feel.”
England are strong favourites to beat the Afghans, though the latter have already proved they have enough talent to dish out a bloody nose in the competition, and would also fancy themselves against a Sri Lanka side lacking the star power of the recent past.
But, having been on the wrong end of Chris Gayle’s master class in their opener, England could feasibly find themselves in a position where net run-rate is a decisive factor in qualification for the semi-finals.
In that case, the pressure might be on to win in style tomorrow, though Moeen says the dressing room is focused exclusively on the result.
“We’ve not thought about net run-rates at all, I’m not sure we’ve got the brains in our team to really think about that,” he said.
“It’s more important we try to win the games.
“Afghanistan are a very good side and they competed well against South Africa. We’re not taking them lightly.
“We are going to play them with everything we’ve got, just as we would against South Africa or the West Indies.”
England’s hero against South Africa, Joe Root, has predicted “special things” for England.
Yorkshire’s Root hit 83 off 44 balls as his side reeled in 230 – the second-highest pursuit in the format’s history and England’s biggest by a clear 40 runs.
The batsman sees a team bursting with potential. “This is a talented group of players who are capable of doing special things,” he said.
“We’ve proved that and now it’s about being consistent for the rest of the competition.
“Victory against South Africa will give us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the group stage and, hopefully, further on as well. There’s no better feeling than winning when you’re up against it.”