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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aniket on November 17, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    @Erebus: Pitch is not dead mate. English batsmen look like they are dancing in front of quality spin bowling. Pitch and conditions are secondary Skills are important which english players are lacking

  • Matthew on November 16, 2012, 19:03 GMT

    A couple of people are having a go at me for my comments about the pitch but I'm not whining, and I would've said the same if England had won the toss and batted. The pitch didn't really offer anything for the bowlers on the first day, yes the English seamers didn't bowl very well (and we didn't hold our catches!!!) but do you honestly feel a side packed with quality batsman would've come close to being bowled out on the first day? I rate guys like Pujara and I believe the rest are supremely talented but if anybody seriously tries to tell me that it was a challenging pitch for batting on, then they are frankly lying through their teeth. Look I love variety but I would've preferred a real bunsen burner over this one. As for Sehwag, he's gone downhill in my opinion. It was a nice surface for him to bat on when he doesn't have to expend much effort (or footwork) when playing shots. On more testing surfaces than this Sehwag struggled against the NZ attack.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 10:05 GMT

    I'm an England fan, and I myself have never said England are the world's best, ever. This ranking system is ridiculous and clearly does not work correctly. It puts unwanted pressure on the players, and clearly England could not handle it. But seriously, playing one spinner on these dead Indian tracks is committing cricket suicide. There needs to be serious questions asking of the selectors. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Eng lose 4-0. Maybe Eng cricket grounds need to produce dry turning, deteriorating tracks to keep up with the rest of the cricket world. Mistakes need to be learned, rather than committing them over and over and over and god damn over. Einstein said that Insanity is making the same mistakes over and over and expecting a different result.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 10:02 GMT

    any chance of england playing english players??? i think the first test of the ashes should be at cape town

  • Aniket on November 16, 2012, 8:47 GMT

    Think its high time the english supporters and former players stopped whining about turning tracks. Both turning tracks and green tops are part of this game and you need to have skills to succeed on these wickets. And if England beat India in England they are labelled world's best, and when they get beaten everywhere in subcontinet, its coz of conditions???!!!. Both teams need to win in foreign conditions to be called great.

  • George on November 16, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    @leaseyy7 - Have you forgotten England's most recent test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan? Why do Poms whinge long before a series starts, build the whining into a crescendo during the series and continue long after it is over? Reminds me of the joke about the 'plane load of Poms and the continuing whining long after the pilot has cut the engines!

  • Ivan on November 16, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    @leaseyy7: Warne's average in India is in the 40's. A certain Dennis Lillee got 2 wickets in Asia. Still great players? And Punter should be scoring tons and tons of runs in India correct - doesn't he average just 25 in India? The statements you make are just to support a flawed line of reasoning. If one extended that logic then Indian bowlers should be the best in the world because they bowl half the time in India. Kapil Dev has 200 wickets in India - no other fast bowler comes even close... thoughts?

  • Manesh on November 16, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    @leaseyy7 . The same thing applicable to your bowlers too, right? If you are an English fast bowler, you can automatically wipe about 10 off your average. isn't it? Flat tracks cannot be made for one side, if your batsmen have guts, they too will score like this.

  • CHAMMA on November 16, 2012, 3:44 GMT

    Mr.Eliya Abbas Syed dont ever compare a ordinary batsman with a legend. shewag is nowhere near to the class of lara.lara has proved his class all around the world.if you say he didnt perform in India, you need to check how many matches he played in India.with the ordinary bowling attack India have its lucky lara is already retired.

  • Narasimha on November 16, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    @Erebus26: Never judge a pitch by the way Viru bats. Wait till English bat on this surface and then u will understand how really challenging this track is? Viru makes batting look so simple, but it isn't as toil of Kohli, Pujara and Yuvi showed

  • No featured comments at the moment.