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January 1, 2011
Graeme Swann insists there will be no hangover from England's Ashes-retaining heroics in Melbourne as they eye a first series win in Australia in 24 years. The tourists partied hard after holding on to the trophy at the MCG but Swann, who details some of the exploits in his latest video diary, said everyone had re-focused on finishing the Test campaign on a high.
"It's been sorted out already," Swann said after training at the SCG. "We haven't had celebrations going on for many days. We had one night out after the game, you should celebrate a Test victory and an Ashes-retaining victory heavily. I tried to a lead a merry dance, but that was one night and we've moved on."
England will face an unfamiliar Australian line-up after the captain Ricky Ponting was ruled out with a broken finger. That has provided Michael Clarke with his first game in charge and Usman Khawaja, the No.3, and Michael Beer, the spinner, are both expected to debut. It should mean that England have a huge advantage with all their experience, but Swann remains wary of so many news faces.
"On one hand there is a whole pile of pressure on them because it is a New Year's Test match and they will be shaking like big dogs, but on the other hand coming in for your first game can be the best time you ever play because you don't know what it is all about," he said. "You've not got the pressure on your back ... You have to hope it goes the first way as you don't want two people on debut and one getting a five-for and the other a hundred."
Swann has 13 wickets for the series and has been satisfied with his contributions in the wins in Adelaide and Melbourne, but he starts this Test with different expectations on him. This pitch is traditionally a slow bowler's surface and England will look to him to provide significant damage.
"You always look forward to bowling on pitches renowned for spin, but that can bring pressure as well if people expect it to turn square like Sydney did 15 years ago," he said. "I'm reliably informed by people in Australia that it doesn't turn like it used to, but it will offer some assistance later on in the game."
Swann's 64 Test wickets were the most in 2010 and he has been a key man in a series of England successes. "It's been pretty much a dream year," he said. "I got married in January, won the Twenty20World Cup [in May], retained the Ashes in December. If 2011 can be anything like that, I will be over the moon. It's been a dream period for me.
"We've played some very good cricket and there are not many England players who can say they have played in two Ashes, won one, retained the other and won a [Twenty20] World Cup. I'm pretty chuffed the way the last 12 months have gone."
Swann is not sitting back enjoying the view because there is still work to be done to ensure this side is the first since Mike Gatting's in 1986-87 to win the Ashes in Australia. "In South Africa last year I thought I'd draw a line under the end of the year and we got absolutely hammered at the Wanderers," he said. "I'm going to draw a line under this series after the series and hopefully we can win 3-1."
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala