The Investec Ashes 2013 July 7, 2013

Swann aims to cut off the head


England have their sights set on Michael Clarke as the Ashes looms, knowing that a quiet series for Australia's captain will go a long way to ensuring the urn does not change hands.

Graeme Swann is well aware of the impact that restricting the opposition captain's runs can have after watching Ricky Ponting endure a miserable series in 2010-11. On that occasion, England also limited Clarke's output to 193 runs in five Tests - the last of which is his first in charge - and know that this current Australia side are hugely reliant on his performances.

Clarke is far and away Australia's leading batsman, holding together what has often looked a callow order recently, and since returning from the back injury that kept him out of the Champions Trophy, has made good use of the warm-up matches against Somerset and Worcestershire with scores of 45, 26, 62 and 124.

"He was their form batsman in England in 2009, although he didn't have such a good series in Australia," Swann told ESPNcricinfo. "The year he's had has been phenomenal, so we'll be hoping to cut the head off the serpent if you like, as a captain.

"The two Ashes series I've played, and one of the main reasons we've won, is because we've been able to make some of their best players have poor series," he added. "Clarke and Ponting last time, and Mike Hussey, until The Oval, in 2009.

"That's what you need to do to win big series, make sure the match-winners in their team don't have a chance to perform. We'll have two or three players on their team we'll definitely be looking at to keep especially quiet - although you hope everyone on the opposition has a poor series."

Swann fully appreciates the power that a prolific leader can have for a side having watched Alastair Cook begin his full-time captaincy career in with a consistently high return. "The best thing he's done is lead from the front by scoring runs. There is no greater way for a team to get behind the captain than watch him pile on the runs," Swann said.

Unsurprisingly, even though Swann is one of more forthcoming England players, he would not be drawn much in Australia's recent problems. However, he has always held Darren Lehmann, their new coach, in the highest regard since the pair duelled together on the field.

"We don't know what their issues were and it's not really for us to try and find out, although I'm sure we'd like to know, because everyone likes a gossip," he said. "What I do know is that Darren Lehmann was a magnificent player, second to none, only Brian Lara has been a better player of those I've bowled against.

"They have a good man, he's a good fella. Whether that brings the team together is probably for people to judge at the end of the summer. You could get rid of every clique and every problem in a team, but if you don't win it doesn't matter."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • H on July 9, 2013, 20:13 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul I'm only messing with you. Lots of Aussie comments about Jimmy not being that good although I think it's mostly to do with the terribly inappropriate comparisons with Steyn and McGrath (Jimmy's not in their league, imho).

    And I agree Broad is our answer to Mitch, that's why I said it! If he pitches it up he can be devastating but when he gets this stupid "enforcer" nonsense in his head he bowls too many long hops. He can bowl a good bouncer but he's not fast enough to keep bowling them. Batsmen get wise to it and he's easy pickings.

    @Jono Makim I've been saying all along you guys have to pick Smith. Clarke, Smith and Haddin are all very good players of spin, capable of blunting Swann. Footholes is an issue and it's why I've been saying I wouldn't, if I were Aussie, pick both Starc and Faulkner unless you have to. It's going to expose the righies to Swann whereas without the footholes he'll have a tough time against them.

  • richard on July 9, 2013, 19:18 GMT

    @bradmanbestever Botham could not win a test against the aussies as captain and He will not win any tipping comps as a so called expert

  • Peter on July 9, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    I see Botham is predicting a 10 - 0 result. I think he is too optimistic, because surely England will win at least one test.

  • richard on July 9, 2013, 7:35 GMT

    remember when we used to talk about who would swing the ball the most during an English ahes series.

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    Realistically, the closer we get to playing this series the more Swann's chances ebb and flow. After all the talk of Aus having 6 lefties in their top seven, it may now be reduced to as few as 3. On the other hand all of the pitches over there seem to be pretty dry and good for batting, so we will probably see plenty of turning 5th day tracks... From an Aus point of view I fancy our chances in the middle order with Clarke, Smith and Haddin, I just hope Starc does lots of round the wicket bowling if we are going to be batting last! I think if Aus bats first and goes in with all these 'righties', as opposed to lefties, then Swann may be a non issue.

  • Steven on July 9, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    It's great to be able to sit on the fence as a kiwi and the pre-match slug fest take place! I think we will see an upset win by the Aussies in the first, and then the English should take control after that. Let's not forget where this is being played, so expect at least 3 draws. I mean if NZ can cause the English a few headaches over the past few months, I would like to think this Aussie side can at least make it an exciting ashes! That's all we really want, some decent cricket to be played over FIVE days.

  • Robert on July 9, 2013, 3:34 GMT

    Posted by Sunshine_Pom on (July 8, 2013, 19:04 GMT). I don't expect our bowlers to dig our batsman out of a hole. The bowlers are far less a concern than our batting. It will probably be a long 'winter' for me regardless, as in reality I think England are deserved favourites and I mentioned as much. Also since January we have not had every one of these bowlers available for selection at one time. Surely you can see, regardless of any outcome, the balance of the current Australian bowling squad is far better than anything selected since January.

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2013, 3:11 GMT

    @H_Z_O re "And what do you mean Anderson and Broad are the main threat? I thought Jimmy's rubbish and Broad is to Australia what Mitchell Johnson was to England? ;)"I have never said Jimmy's rubbish! There's no doubt Jimmy will do some damage during this series and Oz at best need to limit that damage by some stubborn batting in our top 3.I am therefore not opposed to Cowan at first drop because of his one redeeming quality;he can actually leave the ball! Broady is definitely the English version of MJ.He's a talented pretty boy who at his best can destroy the entire opposition batting order in one session but fails to bring his A game 90% of the time.Unfortunately Oz do not have the pack mentality of English supporters and have therefore failed to organize a mass traveling choir and a special song for Broady but in any case, I'm sure all conscientious Oz batsmen would have him and Anderson foremost on their minds as the main danger though would be sweating on a few pies from Broady!

  • Andrew on July 8, 2013, 23:45 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul - don't think Clarke can be dominated by a spinner, but he certainly can get out to them thru over confidence.

  • Scott on July 8, 2013, 22:55 GMT

    @Sunshine_Pom, that's 7 tests, right? Maybe 8, not sure of the last test vs SL. Bit harsh, considering one of those a whole day was washed out - and we had SA 50-5 (remind me, how did Eng go against SA again?) and the other we lost one of our 4 front line bowlers to injury for the whole second innings. Fair enough, we bowled poorly in India. Doesn't help we don't have a spinner! However, in English conditions, we will take wickets - and it's not as if for the last 18 months the English batting line up has been without their failures. In fact, more to the point, they've been decidedly average. As @bouncedout suggests, these warm up games prove so much, and what Essex proved, was that when the pace bowling was around 90mph,they wrecked your line up. We have 2 guys heading your way bowling those speeds! He didn't bowl in the second innings and England scored surprise there. NZ wrecked your batsmen too - oh, that's right, it was complacency that did you in...