England v West Indies, 1st Twenty20, The Oval September 23, 2011

Swann and Bopara star in stand-in roles


Graeme Swann's first match as England captain could not, statistically, have gone any better, as England rampaged to their first ten-wicket victory in the Twenty20 format. Likewise, his one big decision on the night also paid handsome statistical dividends, as Ravi Bopara's medium-pacers were entrusted with a full quota of four overs, and responded with an England record analysis of 4 for 10.

"If you give someone a chance to bowl at the death who never normally does it, and he gets 4 for 10 in 3.4 overs, I'll take all the plaudits, thank you very much," joked Swann, who claimed his decision had been swayed by the hold that Bopara had over his batting in practice. "It takes a world-class death bowler to get me out three times in every net. I'm just glad I got the chance to be captain to show everyone how good he is."

Joking aside, England's performance on the night was ruthless. At 42 for 0 after 24 balls, West Indies briefly looked capable of putting up a fight, but once Samit Patel had made the first breakthrough at the end of the Powerplay, they went on to lose all ten of their wickets at a rate of almost one an over. It was a state of affairs that left Bopara feeling "embarrassed" to have swiped a record that will be hard for his more regular bowling colleagues to overhaul, but in terms of his career progression, his evening's work was another important step in his allround development.

From the moment he chipped into the Oval Test victory with a largely forgotten 44 not out against India, Bopara has enjoyed the most productive month of his career since his three hundreds in a row against West Indies in the spring of 2009. His ODI series against India included a gutsy 96 at Lord's and 37 not out from 22 balls in partnership with Jonny Bairstow at Cardiff, and now this performance - while of spurious merit against a team as outclassed as West Indies proved to be - could yet be significant when it comes to the World Twenty20 on the slow, low decks of Sri Lanka next September.

"I think medium pacers in Twenty20 cricket, in the middle overs, are very important," said Bopara. "Like spinners you have to put pace on the ball, try to hit the ball, and on big fields like this they can be very handy. I fancy myself bowling in the subcontinent, where it can be quite low and difficult to get away at times, so hopefully I'll get a chance, especially if Graeme is captain."

Bopara, however, knows that a lot can happen between now and then, which is a lesson he has learnt since that last run of international form two years ago. "You can never bank on being around, you have to keep performing," he said. "I just want to take one step at a time and not get too far ahead of myself, because that happened when I got those three hundreds in a row. I got a bit ahead of myself, saying that in the next five games, I wanted to make it eight in a row. And when you get above your station that's when you fall quite hard.

"But I definitely feel more of an England player now, especially over the last month. A lot of it is in my own mind, because it's easy when things are going well, to have a good mindset. It's when things ain't going so well, that's when it's very tough. But that 40 in the Test freed me up and I played with quite a free spirit in the one-dayers. I said to myself, back yourself and hit the ball which I've tried to do for Essex for a number of years. I'm glad it's come off, and long may it continue."

Swann harbours similar sentiments about his Twenty20 captaincy. With Stuart Broad unlikely to feature again this year, and Eoin Morgan having undergone shoulder surgery, there's a very real prospect of his role being extended into the one-off fixture at Eden Gardens on October 29. "I'd like to think so, if we get to that point and those guys aren't involved," he said. "Hopefully I'll do a good job on Sunday and my name will still be in the hat, because I enjoyed every moment of today."

Swann particularly enjoyed the vocal support of a packed 17,000 crowd, who defied the chilly conditions and the odd circumstances of the series to get fully behind their team - to an extent that England are not used to receiving this summer. "It's the first crowd we've played in front of in England for the last two months who've really been on our side," he said. "The difference between the noise when we took wickets and hit boundaries, and the fever pitch for the Indian batsmen [in the ODIs] was great to behold. A lot of that has to do with how well we've played this summer, and hopefully we'll continue to do that."

Darren Sammy, West Indies' defeated captain, took the result on the chin, and recognised that - even with a glut of inexperienced players on their side - England are a formidable unit at present. "They are No. 1 and they play like No 1," he said. "All the guys, even on debuts, come in fairly experienced from county cricket. It shows in their game, they're quite confident and that's a page we can take from their book.

"We had a great start but the moment we let them go we didn't bounce back," Sammy added. "We can point out areas we went wrong and encourage them, but we were playing the No. 1 team. at the moment. Whatever they do and whoever comes in just tends to fit in the team right away. We have our goals and we want to win cricket matches, but this was about seeing who could compete at this level."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on September 24, 2011, 22:49 GMT

    The only problem with Monty is that he has been there and been found out at this level. Maybe he has improved as a bowler, but his last 10 Tests produced 25 wickets at 44.0, with a best of 4-74. He's never been particularly successful against India (19 wickets in 8 Tests @ 53.57), although he has a decent record against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. And he is a genuine number 11 bat who is not much of a fielder, which was why Ashley Giles, who was a good number 8 and brilliant gulley fielder could keep him out of the side. If you average 44 with the ball, can't bat and have to be hidden in the field, are you going to stengthen the side? I suspect that he will be in the touring party, but mainly as 3rd spinner and cover for Graeme Swann if an experienced bowler was needed to replace him at short notice, as he was last winter.

  • Samuel on September 24, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    @ davidpk - it's a decent shout but I think they'll go with a genuine second spinner if they go down that route, with Panesar (most likely) or a youngster like Kerrigan coming in to fill the Morgan/Bopara slot. Patel's bowling is improving, but I'm not sure it'll ever be good enough to be a proper part of a Test attack.

  • david on September 24, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    i would think patel is more likely to play in the pakistan tests if they go in with 2 spinners that is. dpk

  • Cricinfouser on September 24, 2011, 12:46 GMT

    @RandyOz: it's not a bandwagon, it's a recognition of skill in a particular situation: tight, challenging bowling on a dry dusty pitch in a limited overs game. With the return series in India coming up, it was a relevant success. Don't forget Bopara was man of the series in the recent ODIs, averaging over 60 with a strike rate over 100, so he is picked primarily for his batting. The bowling is just a feather in his cap. With intelligent captaincy, which only uses his bowling when conditions suit him, he will likely be a very useful player. Swann realised that the West Indians were struggling against him, and very sensibly gave him his full 4 overs - in other circumstances, it might be better to give those overs to someone else.

  • david on September 24, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    5wombats yes we all clocked the speed 94+ mph is up with the fastest since the speed gun or whatever they use to check speeds these days. faster than steyn and morkel and taller. its just a pity due to the format on the game speed sometimes gets abit of stick. what a quandry for the test coach and captain when they come to the test team

  • Dummy4 on September 24, 2011, 11:36 GMT

    well done England. Its great to see how every player is a captain in the team n plays with full responsibility, may be some Indian players can learn a lesson or two from English. If England would have lost this match, hundreds of Indians would have been here, well i think Indian would not be commenting even India-Eng odi series!

  • Randolph on September 24, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    Boprara had a one off game and predictably all the Englsh fans jump straight on the bandwagon. Can't wait to see him get carted around again and they all jump off.

  • A on September 24, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    Aayush - "England won't win a match" (in the sub continent) what do you base this insight on? I think it's going to be a far tougher test from our home conditions granted. I rate the English batsmen only slightly lower than the Indians when it comes to building and accelarating the RR but the English bowling and fielding is MILES ahead. Leaving national bias aside for a sec and judging the players on their merits, I see England not only winning a match but winning the series 3-2.

  • Siroson on September 24, 2011, 11:19 GMT

    Sure 5wombats, we will sure give a good fight in India and try to win. There you go, welcome Ayush kataria.

  • Valavan on September 24, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    It was great ENGLAND won it, else more Indian fans would have spammed this forum with their jealousy over new look England. It was Indian fans who chest thumped in beginning of summer, now got a hiding and try to spit out their jealous. it has so been most of stirring indian fans, who envied australia in pomp, now england who are trying to put up consistency. We as english fans know the test in sub continent, but we are not going to stir any sides with agony. but i think this english team can go places if they understand and play the game. BTW Aayush Kataria, dont even dream of winning an ODI, test or T20 in England by India for another 5 years.

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