An incredible day – the best you will ever feel playing cricket, says Swann
Monday 24 August 2009
The man who wrapped up England's Ashes victory, Graeme Swann, last night told of his nerves going into yesterday's play and his delight at being able to perform so well under pressure.
The spinner, who took four wickets yesterday including the match-winning scalp of Michael Hussey, said: "You can't help but read the papers and listen to the Sky guys saying, 'It's all down to Swann.' No pressure then.
"You get that as a spinner. I'm really happy with how I bowled today. The wicket early on [of opener Simon Katich] settled things. I lost my temper a bit when the catches were going down but it's all turned out well in the end.
"Colly [Paul Collingwood] just said to me, 'Lap it up – it's the best you'll ever feel playing cricket,' and I hope he's right. It's incredible."
Swann's comrade in attack, Stuart Broad, who claimed the wicket of Shane Watson yesterday and was named man of the match, added: "It's an amazing day. We had to fight really hard for it. It's a really special day for all of us."
Reflecting on his first-innings figures of five for 37, he said: "We bowled well throughout the entire series. You dovetail sometimes as bowlers.
"Sometimes you get wickets and sometimes you don't. I wasn't expecting five as quickly as that – it's certainly one of the best spells I've ever bowled.
"To finish with back-to-back five-fors has made this series for me."
At the conclusion of play, England's captain and man of the series, Andrew Strauss, hugged his team-mates, took hold of the Ashes urn and then started celebrating a stunning triumph for English cricket in front of 25,000 jubilant fans.
"That was as special a moment as you will ever get on a cricket field," he said, when asked about the feeling of elation which followed the fall of Australia's last wicket at The Oval.
"It was just madness and we were running around like idiots," said the man who became England captain in January after a week of turmoil which ended with coach Peter Moores and his predecessor Kevin Pietersen losing their jobs. "You don't know what to do: scream or cry, jump up and down or lie on the ground. It is one of those situations you can't prepare for because you daren't let yourself think about the moment in case it never comes.
"We went through so many emotions during the day: hope, frustration, worry, despair at times when we didn't look like we were going to take a wicket . And then to come through and finish it off – until you get over the line you don't realise how hard it is."
Strauss, unlike most members of his team, was also at The Oval in 2005 when the Ashes were last reclaimed, under Michael Vaughan's leadership. "For me personally I suppose it is better because I've captained the side, but we've moved forward and there are different personalities involved," said Strauss. "The win in 2005 will live long in my memory and so will this.
"I think for the last 10 or 15 minutes we were able to enjoy the atmosphere a bit because we were so close. But up until then you don't dare to think about it."
Four years ago, England celebrated with an open-top bus ride through the streets of London, a party in Trafalgar Square and a trip to 10 Downing Street. This time, the celebrations will be low key. "We have to be conscious of the fact that this is just a stepping stone," said Strauss. "It's not the end."
However, it is the end for Andrew Flintoff, who bowed out of Test cricket here yesterday. But he may not celebrate quite so hard this time as he famously did four years ago – especially since he is booked in for a knee operation tomorrow. "I've not had quite as much to drink yet," he joked last night.
"It's an amazing feeling. I'm going to celebrate, probably not in the same style as 2005. I'll take the missus out for dinner and then spend the day with my family tomorrow.
"It's a really special moment – a special day in the Flintoff household and I'm sure a special day in a lot of people's households."
When pressed on what the result meant for him personally, the all-rounder added: "All the injuries and operations – it's for moments like this. What a way to go."
A 2-1 defeat drops Australia from first place to fourth in the world Test rankings and leaves Ricky Ponting as only the second captain from Down Under – after Billy Murdoch, more than 100 years ago – to lose two Ashes series in this country.
"I don't think you can get any more disappointed than I am right now," said Ponting.
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