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

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