Eng v NZ, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 4th day May 27, 2013

Swann closes in on Underwood mudlark

England's premier spinner provided a rare sight at Heagingley as slow bowling proved the potent weapon
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Not since Derek Underwood bowled England to victory against Australia in 1972 on a pitch that was not much better than rolled mud has an England spinner had such an influence on a Headingley Test as Graeme Swann has against New Zealand.

Even Underwood's return of 10 for 82 owed much to chicanery. Wisden recorded that the square was flooded by a "freak thunderstorm" a few days before the match and suggested that the pitch was not up to Test quality.

The Australians put it down to fusarium - a fungus that was once infamously used in biological warfare by being baked into bread, but which on this occasion just helped England to win a Test and retain the Ashes.

Swann has had no such advantages. But the footmarks outside the right-hander's off stump have made a pleasant change for him. By the close of the fourth day, he had 4 for 61 in New Zealand's second innings and 8 for the 103 in the match with four more New Zealand wickets available to surpass Underwood's performance.

Whether he will get the opportunity is debatable. The Leeds weather forecast for the final day remained unpromising, inviting criticism both of England's decision not to enforce the follow-on and of a declaration timed as mid-afternoon approached on the fourth day which left New Zealand 468 to win - 19 runs more than the combined figure they had made in their first three innings of the series.

Jonathan Trott was adamant that England's tactics were beyond reproach. "I think we got it spot on," he said. "Today we set out to get the total we wanted and we achieved that. To get six wickets as well is a good day of Test cricket. We need four wickets on the final day to win a Test match.

"When you are 1-0 up you can afford to let the game take its course. You don't have to chase it or let the weather dictate how you are going to play the game. It's a pretty dry pitch and you don't want to be batting last on it. When you are on top you want to stay on top.

"We knew how many overs we wanted to bowl at them and how many overs were left in the game. We just wanted to get to stumps on day three and reassess. You can always catch up. It is not a type of wicket where you could go in and force it and smash it to all parts of the ground. It was a tricky part of the game to get through."

The most any side has made in the fourth innings to win a Test is West Indies' 418 for 7 against Australia in Antigua in May 2003. New Zealand's record is the 325 for 4 they posted against Pakistan in Christchurch in Febraury 1994, although they did run England close at Trent Bride 40 years ago when Bev Congdon and Vic Pollard both made hundreds before they fell 38 runs short in a valiant pursuit of 479.

Ross Taylor, whose 70 out of 158 for 6 was New Zealand's main source of resistance, was outfoxed three overs before the end of play, a slightly premature end because of bad light, when he virtually yorked himself and became Swann's fourth victim.

"Swann is a world-class bowler and had a bit of assistance with the footmarks and he kept asking questions the whole innings," Taylor said. "We will be looking at the weather when we open the curtains in the morning. England are in the box seat and we need a little bit of help."

But Swann will not be Taylor's most painful memory. That accolade will rest with Steven Finn. Taylor described him as a "big-bounce bowler" and a big-bounce bowler on a small-bounce pitch can be a difficult proposition as his trajectory regularly targets the body.

New Zealand's leading batsman has been tattooed, with three bruises on his upper arm, a centimetre apart. Underwood probably left a similar pattern on the Headingley pitch with his first three deliveries back in 1972.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Biggus on May 28, 2013, 17:35 GMT

    @voma-I should imagine that with all the lefties in our team he'll cause quite a few headaches, especially given that some of them aren't particularly good players of spin to start with.

  • voma on May 28, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    The Kiwis didnt have a clue how to play him , its going to be interesting how this inexperienced Australian batting line up get on .

  • cloudmess on May 28, 2013, 15:10 GMT

    Poms_have_short_memories - Titmus better than Swann? Really? Even on modern, covered wickets Swann has notably better test stats. Antipodeans_are_losing_the_plot.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on May 28, 2013, 15:06 GMT

    10 wickets at Headingly. 10 wickets on a green-top. Spun a web around India with 20 wickets in the series there. No wonder be makes people a little jealous. He's brilliant for Cricket lovers though. Well bowled the world's best spinner. After playing through injury in 2011, who else in the world could take 10 wickets ...at HEADINGLY???? LOL

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on May 28, 2013, 14:49 GMT

    @poms_have_short_memories: No wonder you keep losing the Ashes, you can't identify great cricket when you see it. Fancy trying to criticise Swann when he's just taken 10 wickets - at Headingly!! LOL

  • Silverbails on May 28, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Unfortunately, the mindset of modern day captains, apart from Michael Clark, is sadly a very defensive one: to avoid losing at all costs! However, given the poor state of New Zealand's current batting outfit, a deteriorating pitch and - more importantly - the Leeds weather, then there would have been absolutely NO RISK of an England defeat had they set N.Z. a target of 350 - 400. This declaration may well haunt Cookie, as the weather may well have the last laugh now...

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on May 28, 2013, 13:30 GMT

    Another thick chapter for his book I guess. It did take Cook rather long to bring Swann on I thought; those gaping footmarks which Swann exploited excellently were already evident at the start of NZ's innings. Very good bowling and long may it continue Swann-song.

  • Biggus on May 28, 2013, 11:00 GMT

    @mahjut-It's not that modern wickets don't turn, it's that they get covered, so they're at least dry, and that makes a world of difference. Playing on a drying strip isn't for the faint hearted, and demands very good technique and a generous helping of luck.

  • mahjut on May 28, 2013, 10:22 GMT

    yeah, i sort of rate Swanny but the idea that modern pitches don't turn is a fallacy; apart from the fact that NZ's tweakers are getting grip, Headingly got a bit of turn when SA were there too (Swanny had been dropped for that game cos SA had simply played him into obscurity - not off the park, but out the game) KP got turn...(and wickets.

  • dummy4fb on May 28, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    The first day of the 1972 test at Leeds was my first day of Test Cricket.In those days you could wander onto the field at lunchtime, which we did, to look at the pitch but I certainly didn't have a clue about how "damaged" it was! Underwood and Swann are different bowlers in different eras and it's wrong to compare them. Swann adds a different dimension to England and they aren't the same without him.

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