Graeme Swann today vowed to bowl England to victory in the Second Ashes Test tomorrow but paceman Stuart Broad faces a fitness check to determine whether he can play a part on the final day in Adelaide.
Swann took two for 72 in a marathon 34-over spell today, but it was the part-time off-spin of Kevin Pietersen - whose last Test wicket was in July 2008 - that swung the match back in England’s favour. After scoring a Test-best 227, KP removed Aussie vice-captain Michael Clarke in the last over of the day to leave the home side 238 for four, still 137 runs short of making England bat again.
Broad sustained a stomach muscle strain after bowling his second spell of the day early in the afternoon session. Although he returned to the field, he did not take the ball again and was seen with strapping around the affected area as he tried some gentle bowling in the nets during tea.
England will assess Broad in the morning, but the injury will set alarm bells ringing as stomach muscles are crucial for fast bowlers and must not be risked. Luckily for captain Andrew Strauss, Swann remains fit and firing and is confident of playing the crucial role - as long as the storms and showers forecast for tomorrow do not thwart his team.
“By getting out Clarke, who is their best player of spin, we’ve opened up an end,” said Swann. “Marcus North will be there with Mike Hussey in the morning, and there is a lot of pressure on him.
“We are only a couple of deliveries from getting into the bowlers, but I don’t feel the pressure. As the only spinner in the team, it will fall to me to bowl from one end and take as many wickets as I can.
“We’re very confident, and if we could get Hussey early, it would be fantastic. We’ve played some good cricket since the fourth day at Brisbane, and if we can continue in that vein tomorrow, we’re in the box seat.
“In an ideal world, we would have had them eight or nine down, but we’re facing a very resilient Australian team. It’s important I get the ball on the last day. It’s a decent pitch, so it will be case of being patient.”
After he had edged a sharply-bouncing ball from Pietersen on to his pad, Clarke started to walk off when Alastair Cook took the catch at forward short-leg. When umpire Tony Hill did not give the batsman out, Clarke stopped in his tracks, forcing England to ask for a TV referral - which showed a huge inside-edge from the Aussie vice-captain.
Clarke later said sorry for his conduct on Twitter. “Just want to apologise for not walking off the ground tonight when I hit the ball. I was just so disappointed, my emotions got best of me,” he tweeted.
England will not care, with Swann instead praising Pietersen and captain Andrew Strauss for their contribution to dismissing Clarke for 80.
Before the series, Shane Warne claimed Pietersen was an “outcast” in the squad, but after Pietersen was asked that question during Sunday night’s press conference, he was cheered back into the changing room in a clear show of solidarity from his team-mates.
Swann continued: “The only people who say he’s an outcast are those not in the group. He is as popular in our dressing room as anyone else. We love KP, especially when he’s getting a double hundred and taking their best player out in the last over.
“Sometimes you need a bit of inspiration and who else but KP to give you it? To get Clarke like that was magic. I was disappointed to be taken off, but sometimes the best captains in the world are those who say ‘take a break, mate.’ It’s great when Kev can come on and do that.”
Hussey has been the Australians’ best batsman in this series and he will have much work to do to guide his team to safety tomorrow.
‘Mr Cricket’ will resume 44 not out, and though he recognises the difficulty of the task, he claimed England would feel as though they had been defeated if they were forced to settle for a draw.
“It was a kick in the guts to lose Michael in the last over, but we’re still in there fighting,” said Hussey. “A couple of hours’ rain would help our cause, that’s for sure, and we’re going to need a bit of luck.
“If we could get out of it and draw the match, England would see it as a loss, so it has to drive us on. If we can get away with the series still 0-0, it would be a great result for us.”
Aussie opener Simon Katich has had scans on an Achilles injury after hobbling his way to 43 today. If the results are not favourable, Katich would struggle to be fit for the Third Test in Perth, which starts on 16 December.
Tom Collomosse is the cricket correspondent for the Evening Standard