Richard Scott believes teams may have to explore their spin-bowling options sooner rather than later in the wake of the new County Championship rules regarding the toss.
The Middlesex head coach believes fear of being stuck in by visiting captains who are no longer obliged to toss is causing host counties to prepare a drier surface than those encountered in April over previous seasons.
This is negating the advantage usually held by seamers in early season skirmishes, a fact born out in Middlesex’s own opening fixture of the campaign at Lord’s where less than three innings were completed.
Given the ECB introduced the rule to encourage pitches which would get spinners involved earlier in the piece than usual, such a move might be heralded a triumph though, interestingly, no captain who has opted to insert without a toss has yet won a match.
Nevertheless, Scott feels the new law will increasingly set those like himself selection conundrums.
“With the toss situation and pitches being drier, given a spell of weather where it does remain dry of course we would then have to consider the likes of Ollie Rayner and Ravi Patel and no doubt a seamer will miss out at that point,” he said.
That said Scott is adamant he will always pick the best team for the conditions despite the presence of five seamers and no top quality spinner seemingly costing his side the initiative in this week’s home draw with Warwickshire.
The visitors were struggling at 173-6 in reply to Middlesex’s 452, but shortly afterwards with Scott’s side’s over-rate at -4, first skipper Adam Voges and then occasional ‘leggy’ Dawid Malan were put on and the initiative was lost.
Scott denied the slower bowlers were employed for fear of a points deduction.
“We had them in a tricky position, but we also knew they batted all the way down,” he continued.
“Dawid didn’t really come on until about the 72nd over when we decided it was a process straight after lunch to try and get some overs through quickly to get our hands on that new ball as soon as we could.
“So it was not so much a matter of worrying about the over rate as giving our seamers sufficient time to rest up before the new ball.
“Our over-rate is a work in progress. Unfortunately, we have got two bowlers who come off the longest run-ups in county cricket, but we are seriously thinking about ways we can quicken it up.
“But we pick our best bowlers and our best team to win a cricket match in any given week and that was the side we believe gave us the best chance of winning.”
With a trip to traditionally seamer friendly Chester-le-Street to face Durham on this week’s agenda, any experiment with spinners had to wait once more, meaning the battle with the over-rates will continue.
As soon as the new toss rule was brought in Scott admits he texted director of cricket Angus Fraser to ask ‘shall I text Durham and tell them we are bowling?’
“Seamers up there win cricket matches, he said. “You have only got to look at the home side to see they are very limited on their spin options.
“That said we won last year batting first, so we know how to win up there whether we choose to put them in or toss and choose to bat or get put in.”
Scott though suspects, Chester-le-Street apart perhaps, pitches are not just less conducive to seam, but consequently more batting friendly.
“That has already been born out in the results around the country over the first two weeks,” he added.
“I can’t remember the number of hundreds that have been scored already being made for a number of years, so it looks like there are better batting conditions around.”
It is a perception many like Scott and avid watchers of the game might share, but interestingly it is not born out by the statistics.
The first fortnight of the season has witnessed 22 centuries including four double-hundreds. In the same period last year there were 23 centuries, three of them doubles.
So is the real effect of the changes in the toss law, not one of allowing batsman to score more runs, but just making it more difficult to get people out? And if so is that just a recipe for more draws? Time will tell.