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Won't be afraid to play all-spin attack in Vizag: England coach McCullum

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Visakhapatnam, Jan 30 (PTI) Tom Hartley has not only won the opening Test for England but more importantly dented the psyche of the Indian batters, who might have to face an all-spin attack in the second Test starting here on Friday.

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England beat India by 28 runs in the opening Test with debutant Tom Hartley bagging seven in the second innings having gone for plenty in the first.

McCullum is eagerly waiting to have a look at the track and judge how it would behave.

Although traditionally a high-scoring ground, it has seen domination by the spinners lately, deeming that the conditions are likely to suit the latter.

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On the same note, McCullum warned that if the pitch indeed favours the spinners, the Three Lions would not be afraid to field an all-spin attack, hinting that uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir, who missed out on Hyderabad due to visa delay, could be handed his debut. However senior most spinner Jack Leach's knee injury will be a concern.

However in Hartley, Joe Root, Rehan Ahmed and Shoaib Bashir, he would still have four spinners and he can replace Mark Wood with an extra batter.

"If the wickets continue to spin as much as what we saw in the first Test as the series goes on, look, we won't be afraid to play all spinners or a balance of what we've got," the former New Zealand skipper was quoted as saying to SEN Radio.

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"Bash (Bashir), he was obviously with us during our camp in Abu Dhabi, and he really impressed with his skill set. He fitted in seamlessly within the group, and he's a guy who's got an immense amount of enthusiasm, albeit at a young age and pretty limited in his first-class experience." "When he arrived, boys gave him a huge cheer, and he got to witness something pretty special with the fellas bowling us to a Test win. He comes into calculations for the next Test match," added McCullum.

McCullum was all praise for the manner in which Ben Stokes handled a relatively inexperienced spin attack with such ease.

Hartley managed to grab nine wickets in his debut Test, including mesmerising figures of seven for 62 in the second innings.

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Although the 24-year-old was hammered for 131 in the first innings, especially by young opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, he overcame the obstacles in the subsequent innings, as McCullum believes that allowing him to play with freedom was a real sign of leadership from Stokes.

"He's only played a handful of first-class games and was probably a bit of a punt, selection-wise. But, we saw something in him that we thought would work over there, and he's a tough character," "The way that the skipper handled him was quite remarkable, and he obviously brought us to a Test win. I thought that was a real sign of leadership.

"It was a clear message to not just Tom, but those that are around the squad, that when we talk about freedom, taking the game on and trying to come in and make a difference, you're not going to be cast aside or taken off the crease from the first sign of danger.

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"I thought it was a magnificent decision by the skipper to do that. And, I think it allowed Tom to feel like he belonged and he knew what his role was." McCullum also admitted that the selection of Hartley did raise some eyebrows, especially since he had only 40 First-Class wickets in his kitty in 20 outings.

But, he also quickly drew reference to veteran Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who too was selected on a similar basis before heading to become a vital cog in the Aussie spin department.

"Let's not forget - and I think this is quite a pertinent point - but Nathan Lyon had only played a handful of first-class games and averaged 40-odd when he first got picked for Australia." "When you see guys you think are good enough and who you think are going to suit the conditions, it's sort of horses for courses. You've got to back your judgement.

"Sometimes, you've got to be a little bit brave with selections. If you like a character and you like their skill set, and you think it can be suited to conditions, then it's kind of an educated punt," the coach signed off. PTI AYG KHS KHS

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