Swann not surprised by Cardiff belter
As Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting extended their second-wicket stand through to the end of the second day's play, the most relieved men in Cardiff were not the Australian bowlers whose own mixed efforts with the ball had been put very firmly into context, nor the pockets of Fanatics around the ground, who arrived in England a shade apprehensive about their team's Ashes prospects, but finished the day feeling as though normal service had never been interrupted.
Rather, it was the Glamorgan CCC hierarchy, most particularly the chairman, Paul Russell, who can now look forward to hosting a full five days of refund-free Ashes cricket, when the hyped-up fears prior to the contest had been of a three-day minefield. For that, the gratitude must go to the newly installed groundsman, Keith Exton, who put aside that early-season scare when Glamorgan were docked two points in the FP Trophy for an excessively turning track, and instead unfurled a belter.
Exton's expertise didn't come as much of a surprise to Graeme Swann, however, who at the height of the pitch furore predicted to Cricinfo that the Test track would turn out very different in character to that edge-of-the-square anomaly. And so it proved on a day of arduous toil for England's bowlers, although by seeping their runs at less than three an over, Swann and Monty Panesar did maintain some measure of control throughout the Ponting-Katich alliance. With a 186-run advantage still on their side, Swann felt that England's disappointing day was by no means disastrous.
"This morning we talked about getting momentum, but 249 for 1 doesn't speak very highly of the way we bowled, in fact it sums up the way we bowled," said Swann. "We didn't put the ball in the right place often enough. We can whinge and moan about the ball going soft, and the wicket being flat, and Katich not being given out lbw off me when he was plumb. But that's the game, it's the nature of the beast. We're disappointed to be in this position, but we've still got a nigh-on-200 run lead."
Aside from that Katich let-off on 56, England scarcely created a chance worthy of the name, but Swann refused to be discouraged by the lack of assistance from the track. "It turned about as much as I expected," he said. "We were reading it was going to turn square, but I've played here before, I know the odd ball turns but the majority doesn't, so got to work hard for your wickets.
"It will turn more as the game goes on, but it's not going to speed up, I know that for a fact," he said. "I think it's played a lot better than most people thought, and there's been more bounce than some people expected, but it's a good wicket to bat on because of that lack of pace. There's no spitting turn, except out of the footholds, so I might ask Mitchell Johnson [the left-armer] to rough it up in the morning."
Nevertheless, for England it was an anticlimactic day in the field, not least because of the twin psychological boosts they were given in a wildly entertaining first hour and a half of the day. Swann was central to the performance even then, clobbering an unbridled 47 not out from 40 balls, as England's last three wickets added 99 precious runs in 16.5 overs.
"I am intent on enjoying myself when I bat, because it's the best thing in cricket," said Swann. "No-one wants to be a bowler as a kid because it's rubbish, so whenever I do get the chance to bat I go out and play with a smile on my face, and if it's in my half I try to hit it as hard as I can. It's a simple tactic, and today it came off nicely, and I was having the time of my life."
First in tandem with James Anderson, and then with Panesar "batting like Yuvraj Singh", Swann took particular delight in tormenting his opposite number, Nathan Hauritz, whose sharp spin from middle to leg was an encouraging sign for an England side blessed with the supposedly superior spinners. But somehow, the promised purchase just did not come. England squandered the new ball by offering Phillip Hughes too much width, and then Swann and Panesar - though tidy - found their ambitions thwarted throughout.
"Before lunch, maybe we got a bit hyped up because of the way we batted," said Swann. "Hauritz got a few off the straight to turn down the leg side, and a couple out of the rough as well, so we got a bit of false hope. We probably expected to run up and get wickets every ball. We tried our heart out and put a lot into it, but I can remember only half a dozen balls turning and beating the outside edge. It's disappointing, but it's just one of those things."
The biggest disappointment, however, is undoubtedly the one that comes with hindsight. Ten of England's eleven batsmen reached double figures, yet nobody exceeded Kevin Pietersen's 69 - and there was never any danger that Katich or Ponting would paddle a sweep onto their helmet and into the hands of short leg. A single massive innings, of the type that both Australians are in the position to produce tomorrow, could have turned a handy but unfulfilling 435 into an impregnable 600-plus statement.
"If you look down our scorecard I think everyone got in but didn't go on," agreed Swann. "Partly that was due to the first day of the Ashes, the big occasion probably got to us, but at end of the day our score was in the balance, and we realised we had to have a good morning to get back in, and get the runs that that wicket deserves. A couple of our guys realised they should have gone on and got hundreds, we're a very honest dressing-room and very candid, but our only hundred that was truly denied was mine, because I ran out of partners."
Joking aside, Swann realises that there are still three days of serious competition to come, and he's still optimistic of a turnaround in fortunes. To that end, he still believes that England's spin twins will play the part for which they were selected, with Panesar coming to the fore as the game wears on.
"Monty enjoyed himself and I thought he bowled well, and as the game goes on and he gets more overs, he'll bowl better and better," said Swann. "The reason we talk a lot on the field is that we are a partnership, and we try to bowl as a partnership. I field at mid-on to talk to him, and he fields at mid-on to me to keep smiling at me. That's the way we work.
"On the field it's just tough cricket with the bowlers all finding you've really got to work to get your wickets, but we're looking forward to getting rid of this ball, throwing it in the river, and getting a new one in their hands."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo