Praise flowed from the Test Match Special commentary team when they got their first look at England’s rookie leg-spinner Mason Crane on day two of the fifth and final Ashes Test in Sydney.
Former England spinner Graeme Swann, who took 255 Test wickets, said he was “very excited” by the 20-year-old’s potential, ex-batsman Ed Smith spoke highly of Crane’s natural talent while Ebony Rainford-Brent compared the spinner’s nimble, athletic action to that of a ballerina.
“The simple fact is Mason Crane has bowled impressively and with zest,” concluded former England off-spinner Vic Marks. “I think he’s done pretty well.
“When Simon Kerrigan was picked in the 2013 series in England, Shane Watson went for him and he was marginalised and never came back.
“We haven’t seen that sort of approach at all from Steve Smith – or anyone else – against Crane.”
Although Crane went wicketless in his 17 overs, he caused moments of concern for both Usman Khawaja, who ended the second day unbeaten on 91, and Steve Smith, who is 44 not out.
Twice Khawaja gave inside edges that dropped out of the reach of short leg, while on another occasion the number three edged between wicketkeeper and slip.
Crane also found the edge of Smith when the skipper was on 19, but it fell short of Joe Root at slip.
“Mason has got the right style of energy and he gets plenty of revolutions on the ball,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan.
“He didn’t look fazed. 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.”
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.”
Moeen’s struggles continue
However, while praise was being lavished on Crane, Moeen Ali’s difficult tour with the ball continued.
The off-spinner also went wicketless in 17 overs, meaning his three wickets in the series have come at an average of 152.
He did, however, make a valuable 30 with the bat – prompting Vaughan to suggest his future may lie as a specialist batsman.
“You feel Moeen is going to have to make himself into a number five or six batsman,” said Vaughan. “To do that, he’ll have to play like he did today.
“I enjoyed the way he was willing to play orthodox Test match cricket. I was a lot happier with the tempo of his innings today than last week in Melbourne.
“As a spin bowler, he is concerning. He’s not getting revolutions on the ball.”
That opinion was supported by ex-England batsman Geoffrey Boycott, who believes England now need to look at other options in the spin bowling department.
“We must find a frontline spinner,” said Boycott. “That might mean starting with a young kid, if you think he’s got the character.
“You have to grow into it, learn your trade. I hope that, if Crane has got something, they don’t throw him away. We’ve got to start planning.”