Hampshire: Mason Crane and Liam Dawson look to form twin spin threat

By Adam WilliamsBBC Sport
Mason Crane and Liam Dawson
Mason Crane and Liam Dawson will both hope to earn themselves further international recognition

The subject of young English spinners and their apparent dearth has filled numerous column inches and website pages in recent years.

But Hampshire possess two bowlers who could present themselves as the next generation of England's spin options.

Teenage leg-spinner Mason Crane and all-rounder Liam Dawson both experienced winters where their respective stocks continued to rise.

Now the pair hope to build a partnership in both white and red-ball cricket, potentially furthering their international futures, and hope county cricket will provide the platform.

Hampshire hope for 'fast start' to 2016

"When you look around, there aren't many spinners on the county circuit," slow left-armer Dawson told BBC Sport.

"Obviously, conditions dictate that in England. Seamers bowl the majority of overs.

"The only way spin bowling is going to improve in county cricket is by playing on wickets that do spin and offer spin.

"Hopefully that plays a part not only for Mason and I, but for English cricket going forward with spinners at the other 17 counties."

Dawson 'hungry' for England return

Right-hand top-order batsman Dawson, 26, completed a remarkable turnaround in the space of seven months - from being loaned out to Essex to getting a call-up to England's World Twenty20 squad.

Although he failed to feature in England's run to the final in India, Dawson said the experience was "unbelievable".

"I would have loved to have played," he said. "That's obviously the decision of the coaches and captain, but I did all I could.

Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson
Moeen Ali and Liam Dawson were two of England's spin options at the World Twenty20 in India

"I trained well and if I was called upon, I would have liked to think I would have done a good job.

"I'm hungry to play more, but the only way I can do that is by performing here for Hampshire in white-ball cricket."

Any suggestion of being a potential back-up Test option to Moeen Ali was met with a desire to improve his current first-class statistics.

"If I start the season well in red-ball cricket, there are opportunities to play," Dawson replied. "That all starts here for Hampshire and you have to do well here first to get international recognition."

Mason makes a noise

Academy graduate Crane only made his senior Hampshire debut in July.

A T20 Blast bow saw him take the Surrey wickets of Kumar Sangakkara and Vikram Solanki before he become the youngest Hampshire bowler to claim a County Championship five-wicket haul with 5-35 against Warwickshire.

Talk of a surprise inclusion on England's Test tour to the UAE against Pakistan was already rolling in by late August.

"It was really nice people said those things," Crane said. "But, at the time, I probably thought it was too early.

"I've a lot to learn yet and obviously a lot more games to play before an England call-up."

Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane
Mason Crane is looking forward to a first full senior season with Hampshire

Crane's winter did include visits to the sub-continent, though, with England under-19s.

Tours to both Sri Lanka and the World Cup in Bangladesh exposed him to new conditions, while his flight and control were displayed to a global television audience.

"We got there (Bangladesh) and it was a huge event to be part of," Crane added. "You pick up all sorts of things in a tournament like that, such as having to bowl different lines, lengths and paces.

"But that also depends on what team you're playing and you almost had to change approach game-by-game."

Hampshire's new spin twins?

On a damp April afternoon at the county's pre-season press day, thoughts of raging turning wickets at the Ageas Bowl were probably far from the minds of many.

But both Crane and Dawson already have belief they can play an integral part in all formats for their county.

"In the last few years, we probably haven't played on too many wickets that have spun," Dawson said. "The way Mason bowled last year, being a wrist spinner, he's got a massive future ahead of him.

Mason Crane and Liam Dawson
Hampshire fans will hope to see plenty of Mason Crane and Liam Dawson bowling in tandem

"The amount of control he has for someone who is 19 years old is unbelievable.

"I'll be looking forward to bowling with him and hopefully winning a few games for Hampshire throughout the season."

For Crane, who was guided by former Hampshire spin pair Darren Flint and Raj Maru through the county's academy, turn has already featured in pre-season.

"We played a friendly at Hove against Sussex where the wicket was quite tacky and you get some early season squares that can be quite dry," he said.

"But I guess as a spinner in England, you've just got to embrace whatever surface you play on.

"I'm just looking forward to trying to forge a partnership with Liam and see how it goes. I also have to understand I might not play every game, as I'm still only 19.

"I'm just focusing on my own bowling and playing all the games I'm selected."