Leaving out Swann probably cost us, admits Strauss

 

Headingley

Andrew Strauss admitted he had misread the Headingley pitch and that leaving the off-spinner Graeme Swann out of his side may have been a mistake after yesterday's draw.

Swann is certain to play at Lord's next week following an underwhelming display from England's four-man, all-seam attack that allowed South Africa to score 419 in their first innings after Strauss had won the toss and put them in.

England were always behind the eight ball after South Africa posted that score and know they must now win at Lord's next week in the final Test or face handing over the world No 1 ranking to Graeme Smith's team.

"I was pretty happy with the strategy with the weather forecast for the second half of the game," Strauss said. "We felt our best way to win the game was to win the toss and bowl first. We probably misjudged the wicket. It didn't do as much as we'd have liked.

"If it had done more and we'd have taken early wickets the strategy would have worked OK. But we probably missed Graeme in the second half of the game given that they scored 400."

The part-time off-spin of Kevin Pietersen again proved England's most dangerous asset yesterday morning before Stuart Broad finally delivered a threatening spell to claim five South African wickets in their second innings.

Pietersen picked up the wicket of Jacques Rudolph with only his second ball of the innings to finish with Test best figures of 3 for 52, further compounding regrets over the decision to omit Swann.

But, following Broad's late haul of 5 for 69, Strauss is adamant his side have shown enough in this Test to be able to force victory next week.

"I believe we have a good chance of winning the next Test match," Strauss said. "I think our bowlers toiled really well and were feeling a little bit frustrated they weren't getting their just deserts. A few catches had gone down, which is always frustrating.

"But Stuart's spell just showed there's a crazy session in there for us and if they keep doing the right things the bowlers will get their rewards."

While Strauss was eager to play a dead bat to questions about Pietersen's future and chose not to join him in a joint press conference, he made a pointed reference to the way Swann had accepted the decision to leave him out.

"He was fine. I don't think he was all that keen not to be playing, but he is obviously a very good team man and took it well," said Strauss.

"One thing I will say – and it is important to stress this – is that the team unity that we have had over the last three years has been outstanding.

"It is something we all pride ourselves on, always have done and will continue to do so going forward," the captain added.

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