Sri Lanka v England, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day March 28, 2012

England are favourites - Swann


Graeme Swann believes England are "just favourites" to pull off their highest ever run chase and secure a come-from-behind victory against Sri Lanka in Galle after battling through the final session of the third day with eight wickets intact.

Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss had been dismissed with 48 on the board, both to Rangana Herath who took his match haul to eight with the potential to add plenty more but Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen survived a few scares - Trott an lbw review and Pietersen a dropped catch at leg slip - to raise the prospect of a tense fourth day.

It would go against the current form of the England top order if they achieved the target, which would overtake their 332 for 7 against Australia at Melbourne in 1928, with their highest total this year being 327 in the first innings in Abu Dhabi. Yet the ever-positive Swann, buoyed by his personal success of 6 for 82, was encouraged by what he saw.

"We just need a bit of good old fashioned rolling your sleeves up and getting your head down," he said. "The way KP and Trotty batted at the end is exactly what we need to do tomorrow. They got their heads down, they kept out their good ones. They made batting look as serene as it's going to get on that pitch. I'd say we're just favourites."

Victory for England would also blow away the ground records. The highest successful chase is 96 (that was without loss but from a small sample size) and Sri Lanka's 253 here last year against Australia is the highest fourth innings total. None of that, though, bothers Swann.

"I don't like stats," he said. "Just because somebody won a game in 1912 chasing 290 doesn't mean anything. This is 2012 and this is the match we are playing. History is there to be rewritten."

After a second day where 17 wickets tumbled, just seven fell on the third even though the pitch continued to wear. But it has remained slow throughout, without a huge amount of bounce - one reason why Monty Panesar has been less effective - and the batting of Sri Lanka's lower order showed what was possible.

"People who actually apply themselves and get their heads down are hard to shift on that pitch," Swann said. "If you take one genius knock of 180 out of this game we'd probably have won by now. That just proves that with the right technique and temperament it's quite heavenly to bat on as well."

Naturally, however, Sri Lanka believe the odds are stacked in their favour and as much Swann wants to shun history they are very happy to soak it up.

"We have the psychological advantage because they need to score more than 300," Prasanna Jayawardene said. "But we have to come out and bowl well in the morning. Rangana and Suraj are bowling very well and we also have Dilshan. The ball is also reversing when it gets older and our seamers can handle the old ball."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 30, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    @Meety ctd - Yes I'm sure the talent pool is comparable. I'm certainly not saying there's anything much between Eng,Aus and SA at the moment and if Aus overtake us again it will be deservedly so.

  • John on March 30, 2012, 21:26 GMT

    @ Meety on (March 30 2012, 12:25 PM GMT) Aus are a funny side. They are certainly better in SC conditions than Eng and I think you're right re our batsmen last time we played in OZ and it seems that the opposite is is the case now.The reason I say have Aus improved that much is that if I was an Oz fan I'd be expecting to beat NZ at home 2-0 and certainly not lose a test to them. I still feel the SA series showed their total inconsistency. How can a team get bowled out for less than 50 and then chase down 300+ in the very next test ? No disrespect meant but re SL - decent solid victory for you guys - but I feel Eng should be beating SL comfortably and also beating Pak (less comfortably) and still feel our bowling is decent - just that our batting is awful.

  • Andrew on March 30, 2012, 12:25 GMT

    @JG2704 - honestly, I think everyone knows Swann is eccentric, & we are old glad he doesn't make weak comments. All I was saying is that, the talent pool in the Oz side is comparable with your lot (& Saffas). Oz has a great record in SL over a long period. The way I see it is, that in the last Ashes, England had 5 of their 6 specialist batsmen in or near career best form, that is quite rare, as you don't often have sides averaging 500 an innings, sooner or later, batsmen will come off the boil. England sustained a reasonably long period of plundering runs, & now the worm is turning. The slump has only claimed one casualty (Morgan), but another loss & you would think that there will need to be another sacrifice. The SL pace attack had career averages of about 45 & 55, Herath (improved), is not a great & Randiv is par at test level, yet they were made to look like Murali clones. Once batsmen get into that mindset, the ramifications could linger deep into the year.

  • John on March 29, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    To be fair to Swann I thought he said what he said partly tongue in cheek , knowing Eng were up against it. As it happened Eng lost and can cite many fielding lapses etc for nor reducing SL's total in both inns and the problem is that the england drops/lapses cost them many more runs than SL's drops - eg Sanga's drop of KP did not cost as many runs as our drops of Jaya (take your pick which one). Anyway despite my frustration and disappointment Eng did still score more runs than the total of the previous highest chase on this pitch and significantly more than many of the commenters suggested was at all possible.

  • John on March 29, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    @Meety Not sure. I think what it does prove is that Eng are/have been awful in SC conditions and SA and Oz are bother better in such conditions. I have to agree that the gap is narrow and Aus and SA could well overtake England the way things are going. The thing that just puts things in doubt about Aus resurgence is that they lost a test (drew the series) at home against statistically the weakest of the 8 nations.Had that not have happened I'd have been even more worried about the Oz resurgence. I agree that it is a worry re England's batting and the SL attack looks consistent but no world beaters and they seem to have lost their bouncebackability which they showed at various stages over the last few years. My honest assessment right now is that Eng are by far the best home nation of the 3 but by far the worst in SC conditions. As for SA , I feel they are tough to beat but their results suggest they underachieve when looking at the players they have.

  • Andrew on March 29, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    Oh well beaten favourites! The best thing about SL winning is, we now have can have a direct comparison between Oz & England. This is superficial proof that Oz HAVE improved significantly & the difference between the top Test sides in world cricket is very narrow. Oz won 1 nil, & probably would/could of won the other two matches had it not been for rain. The point being at NO stage did Oz look like losing, this is despite being in transition. So I look fwd to hilbumper/ohmatty/front foot lunges take on this. Anyways, it was a good contest, England a genuine outside chance of winning, but SL played the conditions that bit better. The worrying thing for England is, even though SL won, they have a fairly weak bowling attack, with Herath, far & away the only top quality bowler, & Randiv is a journeyman at best. SL would be much better if they had Eranga, & we all know they would way more dangerous if they had Malinga!

  • disco on March 29, 2012, 7:40 GMT

    @jmcilhinney, I am obliged to commend you on your correct analysis of my comment. It's good to know that there are people out there still with an ability for clear objective thinking.

  • steven on March 29, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Swann....Swann will tear you apart...again... Looking forward to swanny tearing their attack apart later today for a classy win

  • John on March 29, 2012, 0:36 GMT

    @disco_bob, it does seem that way but there's no guarantee that, if Broad hadn't overstepped, that the ball would still have produced the wicket. He was well over so for the delivery to be legal he would have had to be back at least 6" or maybe more. The ball would have then had a different trajectory and the batsman would have had a split second longer to play his shot. All that aside, while Broad is not the worst no-baller in the world, he does bowl too many of them. If Anderson takes that c&b with MJ on 90 and Broad doesn't no-ball then England could be almost over the line by now. Of course, If England had betted decently in the first innings the same could be said.

  • John on March 29, 2012, 0:08 GMT

    @stuartk319, you say that Swann should give MJ some credit yet you misquote him and leave out the fact that he called that knock "genius". Is it not giving credit to call someone a genius?

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