India v England, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 15, 2012

Swann's worst fears confirmed

The failure of their seamers to provide any control, and the lack of a second spinner, saw England leaning heavily on their premier slow bowler on day one

In the run up to the Test series in India, Graeme Swann gave an interview in which he said England would be "screwed" if they had to rely on just him and Monty Panesar. But a day into the series, Swann's worst fears have been realised. Perhaps something beyond his worst fears: not only did England lean on him like a pensioner on a Zimmer frame, but he did not even have the support of Panesar's spin.

Swann claimed 4 for 85 on the first day in Ahmedabad. It was not just the fact that he took all four wickets that underlined England reliance upon him, but the fact that he was the only frontline bowler to offer his captain sustained control. Swann delivered 32 overs - more than a third of the overs bowled - and was the only one of the specialist bowlers to concede under three-an-over. Indeed, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan both went for more than four-an-over.

While England's seamers were never likely to coax much out of a low, slow wicket that offered them little, Swann accepted they had conceded too many runs in the first session and India had earned themselves a strong position in the game. He took some consolation in the thought that England had clawed their way back into things a little as the day wore on. From 120 without loss at lunch and then 225 for 1 not long before tea, England fought back to claim 3 for 59 in 27 overs.

"From the first few overs we realised we were in for the long haul over here," Swann said afterwards. "We realised the ball was not going to swing much but we didn't expect the pitch to be that low and slow. At lunch we sat down and came up with a new game plan. I don't think we bowled straight enough in the first session. On a pitch that is low and slow you have to attack the stumps a bit more. I think we did that as the game went on and that's why we got a couple of wickets and pulled the run-rate back.

"The first session they undoubtedly won. Arguably the other two were even. Having lost the toss and bowled first on that pitch we would have liked five or six wickets but we'll take four. If we had five or six it would have been an exceptional day for us and would have knocked 60 runs off the total.

"India have some very destructive players and the way Viru [Virender Sehwag] batted really took the game away from us in the first couple of hours. I've been reading in the paper that he hasn't got a century for a couple of years and he's been questioned by the local press. Good on him for banishing those doubters."

"Bowled through the gate is always my favourite way to get a batsman out, especially a player as good as Kohli."
Graeme Swann on his final wicket of the day

The wicket of Sehwag, who was bowled as he attempted to sweep, made Swann the highest wicket-taker of any offspinner to play for England, surpassing Jim Laker's record of 193. He laughed off the suggestion that he was on course to emulate - or even beat - Laker's record of 19 wickets in a Test in 1956 and instead chose to focus on two of the more pleasing wickets: Sachin Tendulkar, beaten in the flight and caught at deep mid-wicket, and Virat Kohli, beaten through the gate by an offbreak, certainly delighted him.

"I always say I'm not a stats man but when people told me I was near Jim Laker I was genuinely excited," Swann said. When you're growing up these are the famous names of the game, you don't even dream of emulating them, let alone going past them.

"I was fortunate with Kohli's wicket that the ball was changed after the quarter seam exploded on the soft ball. The replacement was a touch harder. No ball spun for three or four overs and then one just hit a pebble and turned square. It's always my favourite way to get a batsman out, bowled through the gate. Especially when it is a player as good as Kohli.

"The noise that erupted in the ground when Sachin walked out to bat… before he even comes out to the middle you know who it is. It's always nice to get him out, and get him out early. Let's face it, he's the greatest player still playing the game."

But Swann knew his success might be something of a mixed blessing. Bearing in mind that India have two frontline spinners in their side and they will after last use of a pitch that seems certain to turn more as the match progresses, then Swann's early success suggests England's batsmen could face a tough struggle.

"The Indian spinners were probably watching with eagle eyes and looking forward to bowling on that pitch," Swann said. "It's still a very good pitch for batting on. It's only the odd ball that turned. That can pose problems sometimes. I think our batsmen will look at the footage and realise that it's still a good pitch."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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