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December 10, 2009
Graeme Swann hadn't bowled a ball in anger since the third ODI in Cape Town on November 27 and the last time he bowled in whites he secured England the Ashes at The Oval in August. The scenes in East London couldn't have been a greater contrast to those of South London, but for Swann it was business as usual as he pocketed 6 for 55 at Buffalo Park.
He came within inches of claiming a hat-trick when Mangaliso Mosehle was beaten and in the end had to settle for three wickets in four balls. "I was gutted," he said with typical humour. "I've never had a hat-trick at any level and I told everyone that. It actually hurt."
On the serious side, every over counts for England in their limited preparation time before the opening Test at Centurion Park, but Swann is comfortable with his form although added the demands are different for other players.
"As spinners go if you've been bowling and feel a semblance of rhythm then you are fairly happy with life," he said. "It feels nice coming out of my hand. I think it's more important for the batters to get time in the middle and for everyone to get into their own state of mind that they are ready to go.
"There are different lines and the big difference is you try not to go for many runs in one-day cricket. It's been coming out of my hand fairly nicely all tour and I don't find it that big a deal at the minute."
Swann also praised the umpires for ensuring there was a full day's play despite heavy rain on Wednesday evening. "It's just nice to get outside and play cricket," he said. "The umpires deserve a lot of credit for getting us out there because the outfield certainly wouldn't have been fit for a Test match. Fair play for letting us have the practice."
With Adil Rashid having stayed with the Performance Squad in Pretoria, Swann is the one frontline spinner in the squad so will earn another run-out during the second two-day game. However, rather than the need for more practice there is another reason he is desperate to play. "I certainly don't want to miss out tomorrow because I've seen what the others have to do fitness wise and it doesn't really rock my boat," he said. "I'd rather get out there and bowl."
Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper