South Africa v England, 1st Test, Centurion, 3rd day

Swann ruffles South Africa's feathers

It's easy to forget that Graeme Swann has only been a Test cricketer for a year. How did England ever manage without him?

Andrew McGlashan at Centurion

December 18, 2009

Comments: 1 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Swann scored all round the wicket in his momentum-changing innings, South Africa v England, 1st Test, Centurion, December 18, 2009
Graeme Swann's onslaught transformed the momentum of the match © PA Photos
Enlarge
Related Links
Players/Officials: Graeme Swann
Series/Tournaments: England tour of South Africa

It's easy to forget that Graeme Swann has only been a Test cricketer for a year. How did England ever manage without him? He has brought with him an infectious spirit and a joker-in-the-pack character, but today's performance with the bat, which bailed England out of a potential Test-losing hole, was surely beyond the bounds of even his confidence and self-belief.

Already Swann has a CV that includes two wickets in his first over in Tests, three five-wicket hauls, an Ashes-winner's medal and enough punchlines to fill a comic-book. Now you can throw into that list the fact that he is comfortably the best No. 9 in the world, and he could hardly hide his glee when he was told that Ricky Ponting had batted at the same position for Australia, at Perth, after being injured and made just 2. "How many did he get? Draw your own conclusions," he said during a typically chipper press conference.

Swann's Test-best 85 off 81 balls was England's best score by a No. 9 in 38 years, but still he couldn't resist. "I was kind of hoping it might be the highest ever," he said. "If I'd known, I'd have carried on pushing it round."

Joking aside, and it's sometimes difficult to do that with Swann, this was a hugely important innings. The team have a notoriously poor record at the beginning of overseas series - losing six out of their seven opening Tests - and a 150-run deficit would have left them nowhere to turn. Without Swann's intervention, England would have been praying for a highveld thunderstorm to save them, but now they are in a position from where victory is a realistic possibility. .

It wasn't just how many Swann scored, either, but how he made them. England have promised not to take a backward step in this series, yet at 221 for 7 they weren't making many positives strides forward either. Andrew Strauss will have had that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach; he'd put South Africa in, watched them score 400-plus, and then started seeing the pitch playing tricks.

Strauss, and England, are far from out of the woods yet - batting last will be a hazardous occupation - but what a difference the final session made. It was South Africa who left the field looking ragged and tired after watching Swann and James Anderson add 106 for the ninth wicket. South Africa's tail wagged by hanging around in the first innings, but England's had a far more forceful impact on proceedings which wrestled the match momentum.

"When Jimmy got cramp in his arm batting - the first time that's ever happened to him, I think - we saw Graeme Smith call a team meeting," Swann said. "He was fairly animated, so that obviously shows you're doing something right.

"You can tell when you're winding people up. The very fact that we're batting nine and 10 and put on a hundred, I know if I'd been fielding I'd have been calling us every name under the sun."

Swann even managed to unleash the switch hit against Harris, while Anderson registered his first six when he slog-swept the same bowler over deep midwicket. "It was a good crack - especially when Jimmy smashed that six," Swann said. "He was telling me shots I wasn't allowed to play - which I obviously did the next ball - and vice-versa.

"It's just great fun once you get going - and I'm happy that I've got a couple of switch-hits now, so I can show Kev (Pietersen) how to hit it along the ground."

Swann's innings continues his impressive Test form and follows an equally valuable 63 in the deciding Ashes Test. Three of his last four innings have been half-centuries, including a nothing-to-lose dash against Australia, as England slid to defeat in the fourth Test at Headingley.

"To go out there with a good mate of mine and put on a hundred and wrestle the initiative back our way is quite nice," he said. "It was certainly a game that was drifting horrendously out of our favour. Now, if we haven't quite got to a point of equality, we're pretty much back in the game."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Andrew McGlashan

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Percy_Fender on (December 19, 2009, 7:08 GMT)

Graeme Swann is a real asset in the England team. He is a fairly good off spinner and is a courageous, attacking batsmen with a sound temperament.In other words a complete pro in the Australian sense. He also has this in the face streak which should take him far even verbally. Panesar was just a spin bowler who did not have the mental fibre, as Swann has, to improve. It is quite likely that Swann's Test baptism in the Chennai Test against India instilled in him that self belief. I remember he had got Gambhir and Dravid out in his first over. Those two as we all know are some of the best players of spin in the world. I have no doubt that his latest performance in South Africa is no flash in the pan. He will be up there with the finest all rounders ever to have played for England, if we just ignore his playful charecter.

Comments have now been closed for this article

TopTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
Tour Results
South Africa v England at Johannesburg - Jan 14-17, 2010
South Africa won by an innings and 74 runs
South Africa v England at Cape Town - Jan 3-7, 2010
Match drawn
South Africa v England at Durban - Dec 26-30, 2009
England won by an innings and 98 runs
South Africa v England at Centurion - Dec 16-20, 2009
Match drawn
SAf Invit XI v England XI at East London - Dec 11-12, 2009
Match drawn
More results »
News | Features Last 3 days
News | Features Last 3 days