Mason Crane – how the experts saw it


England supporters had waited all series but finally, in Sydney, Mason Crane became the youngest specialist spinner to play for England for 90 years.

England’s record for producing legspinners is an abysmal one as Andrew Miller reflected in his round-up of the Not-so-Famous Five who have plugged a gap or two in the past half-century.

So just to see Crane, at 20 years and 320 days, become the youngest England spinner since Ian Peebles played against South Africa in 1928 was something to celebrate.

Crane might have followed Tom Curran in claiming Steven Smith as a maiden Test wicket had his edge not fallen short of Joe Root at slip. And twice, inside-edges from Usman Khawaja fell short of short leg and he also edged between wicketkeeper and slip.

By the time it was all over, although Crane went wicketless in his 17 overs, a long line of former England and Australia players were queuing up to offer praise.

It has become part of a legspinner’s initiation ceremony to undergo an evaluation from Shane Warne, the greatest leggie of them all. “His action is nicely balanced, there is nice momentum and he explodes through the crease,” Warne said before adding: “He’s very aggressive. He is feisty, looks to get into the batsman’s space. He won’t back down from the challenge.”

On ESPNcricinfo, Graeme Swann, said: “I think it was a good day, a day that showed a lot of promise. It’s never easy bowling wrist spin, full stop, it was a hot day, a very good batting pitch, but he bowled 16 overs of very solid legspin.”

Another former England spinner, Vic Marks, said: “The simple fact is Mason Crane has bowled impressively and with zest. I think he’s done pretty well.

Mental strength was picked on by several observers, including the regular ESPNcricinfo contributor, Mark Butcher. Butcher said: “I’m not surprised that he’s settled quickly because one of his great strengths and, for me, one of the things that make him stand out among English spinners of many vintages is that he doesn’t seem to carry a lot of the mental fragility that his predecessors have done.”

Ebony Rainford-Brent, who won the Women’s World Cup as a player, added: “Mason has got a little bit about him. I like energetic actions; I like bowlers who get through the crease. He’s very light on his feet – ballerina-esque.”

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, can be a demanding judge, but he seemed happy enough. “Mason has got the right style of energy and he gets plenty of revolutions on the ball,” he said, before adding a rider: “He’s not the kind of bowler you’d see playing every single Test match but we’ve seen enough today to know that, if England work well with him, there’s things to be worked on over the next few years.”

That leaves the most trenchant observer of all – Vaughan’s fellow Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott. But, on second thoughts, that’s enough to be going on with. Best to let the toughest critic of all take a look for at least another day.



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