The Surfer

Journeymen put England on brink of victory

The first day at Lord’s witnessed the arrival of a special talent; now it was the turn of the journeymen, writes Mike Atherton in the Times .

George Binoy
George Binoy

The first day at Lord’s witnessed the arrival of a special talent; now it was the turn of the journeymen, writes Mike Atherton in the Times.
For Ravi Bopara, the possibilities are endless, but we know, as much as we can know anything in sport, that Graeme Swann and Graham Onions will not finish their international careers as greats of the game. Yesterday, though, they rose above the largely humdrum nature of this contest, Swann biffing his way merrily to his highest Test score, then sharing eight wickets with Onions, who picked up five on a debut that he will not forget in a hurry.
He sings, he strums, he bats, he catches and now he even opens the bowling. But the best thing, by far, about Graeme Swann in this Ashes year is that he is an England twirler who takes wickets and has emerged as a real threat to batsmen everywhere, writes David Lloyd in the Independent.
While Panesar appears to be stuck on a plateau, Swann just keeps soaring and there was no doubt which of the two spinners would start this summer. But even a 30-year-old with a perpetually rosy outlook on life might not have expect a chilly May day in London to go quite so well. Having hit a bright and breezy 63, he was given two overs with the new ball as captain Andrew Strauss explored a theory and then held a couple of fine slip catches after doing sizeable damage during his second spell. Panesar, famously, has been accused by Shane Warne of playing the same Test 30-odd times, the allegation being that he has not learned a lot along the way. Whatever the future – and, especially, this summer's Ashes series – holds for Swann it is unlikely he will be accused by anyone of being predictable.
Gone were the resilience and the combativeness of recent series that prompted optimism of an overdue revival. There was, instead, the sense of defeatism so prevalent for so long. An innings loss before the weekend seems certain, says Tony Cozier in the Trinidad Express.
Onions came into the England team as part of the new-broom tactics of the recently appointed team director, Andy Flower (Fresh Flower and Onions! Flower picks Onions!) and he underwent one of those miracles that sometimes happen in sport. It was as if sport had suddenly taken leave of its senses and decided to write fairytales: Little Graham and his Five Magic Onions, writes Simon Barnes in the Times.
For two hot months last winter England trekked round the Caribbean and could hardly buy a wicket. On a fresh spring afternoon at Lord's yesterday they found them as cheap as chips, writes Stephen Brenkley in the Independent.
It wasn't so much a collapse as an avalanche, with four wickets falling in the space of seven deliveries to generate chilling reminders of the two-day annihilation at Headingley nine years earlier in the fourth Test of the series where England regained hold of the Wisden Trophy after 27 years in West Indian hands, writes Fazeer Mohammed in the Trinidad Express.
With a lead of 225, three and a half days still to play, conditions remaining inhospitable and bowlers relatively fresh – Tim Bresnan, the fourth seamer, had yet to get the ball in his hand – there was no option but for Strauss to enforce the follow-on. Edwards, who had f­inished bowling with 6 for 92, will not be ­batting out this match. Instead, if the weather holds, West Indies face defeat today, writes Mike Selvey in the Guardian.
Nothing humbles in sport so much as the witty aside gone wrong. In the build-up to this Test, Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, said he had “never tasted Onions”, a claim that backfired spectacularly on his middle order on Thursday as the Durham pace bowler sliced and diced them with five wickets in 27 balls, writes Derek Pringle in the Telegraph.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo