Outburst shows that Swann is still fired up for the one-day game
England spinner performs with usual guile – and has usual rant after Bresnan drop
Graeme Swann has expressed enough reservations about one-day cricket to suggest he has an uncertain future in the international 50-over game, yet his commitment and his importance to England's improvement in this format cannot be questioned.
Swann's candour is an essential element of his competitive nature and in recent times, he has delivered trenchant assessments about 50-over cricket. The off-spinner sympathised with Kevin Pietersen's decision to retire from England's one-day side and he is worried about the time he will spend away from his young family during the coming winter.
Swann also said last year that he would have rather played a fourth game against South Africa, who arrive later this month for a three-Test series that will determine who ends the summer at the top of the world Test rankings, than this five-match 50-over contest against Australia.
Swann's words were sufficiently strong to persuade coach Andy Flower to seek out his best slow bowler and ask him whether he retained the desire to play for England in all forms. Flower left those discussions convinced of Swann's dedication, and the 33-year-old's performance yesterday should have satisfied him further.
During his opening seven-over spell, Swann bowled with typical intelligence and control. His patience and skill disrupted the rhythm of the Australian batsmen and cost Swann only 17 runs, and brought the wicket of Shane Watson. The tourists added only 50 runs between the last ball of the 20th over and the penultimate delivery of the 37th over, testament to the influence and guile of Swann.
It was an exemplary display of slow bowling, but what happened in Swann's final over of the innings demonstrated even more eloquently that the fire still burns fiercely within him. The last delivery of his eighth over was launched towards the midwicket boundary by George Bailey. Tim Bresnan, running round the boundary, flung himself towards the ball. It would have been a magnificent catch and it looked a fine effort from Bresnan, yet his failure to hold on sent his team-mate into a rage.
Swann and Bresnan are close friends but Swann was in no mood to spare his pal. With hands on hips and an expression as menacing as the clouds above The Oval before the two rain delays, Swann told the world exactly what he thought of the escape England had granted Bailey.
Is it productive or wise to castigate a team-mate for a mistake? It sometimes makes for uncomfortable watching, but England expect much of each other and the results – England are top of the world rankings in Test and Twenty20 cricket – indicate that the end justifies the means.
Swann and Stuart Broad, the Twenty20 captain, are two of the quickest to let their feelings be known and the "double teapot" – the sight of an England bowler with hands on hips after a fielding error by a team-mate – is a common sight. It was particularly apparent during the World T20 in the Caribbean two years ago, a competition England won.
Swann might have gone too far this time, but his rant was not the act of a man who has become indifferent about England's form in 50-over matches. Perhaps Swann was wrong to be so annoyed with Bresnan, but his anger was born of a desire to see England succeed.
Furthermore, Swann's invective did Bresnan no appreciable damage. In his opening spell, the Yorkshire bowler had struggled but he played an important role later in the Australian innings and struck twice in the 47th over.
A full, in-swinging delivery proved too good for Bailey, and three balls later, Matthew Wade's attempt at a reverse-flick brought a simple catch for Broad and presented Bresnan with another victim. Two wickets in four deliveries for the seamer.
Had Swann's verbal assault had a positive effect on Bresnan's bowling? Never shy to offer a wry observation, Swann would doubtless claim the credit for it.
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