Swann: 'If it goes five days I'll eat my hat'

 

Dubai

After watching Azhar Ali grind out runs for nearly nine hours, England deserved a break. Azhar looked like a man at peace with his world, a man who likes to set out his stall and let others do as they will.

He is unflappable. He played his maiden Test in England in 2010, before all the fuss started and even then it probably passed him by. In 20 Test matches, he has scored his runs at a shade over two runs an over, the sort of player whom the late, great Ken Barrington would have looked fondly on. No frills but no nonsense either.

It was a big surprise when he gave a catch to short leg after making a career-best 157, including 10 fours and a six. It is another surprise that he hit two other sixes in Test matches.

"The way Younis Khan and Azhar Ali batted has shown us the way to play," said Graeme Swann, doubtless relieved to have taken three late wickets, including that of Azhar. "They used the bat instead of their pads and Younis especially took the attack to the spinners. His century was one of the best I have seen for a long time."

So it was, and if Azhar's was from a different drawer, that did not make it much further from the top. It was an innings for the circumstances, for Pakistan needed to eat time out of the match, both to ensure that England did not have enough of it left to reach a winning target and to needle them.

That they failed narrowly in both objectives suggested that there was still fight left in the England dressing room when there might have been none towards the end of a perplexing series and a crazy match.

"We came into this series full of hope, thinking we could win," said Swann. "But we have a chance to salvage something. For a long time it looked as though we wouldn't be able to do that but because of our perseverance with the ball we can."

If it has been a tough series for England, Swann has embodied the struggle in some ways. He has not matched the potency of the opposition spinners, while his colleague Monty Panesar, whom he praised unequivocally, has had better returns. The wickets have come but they have taken their time, as they did yesterday.

"Such is life sometimes," he said. "It's no great secret that they are riddled with right-handers which doesn't play into my court. If you are coming round the wicket and can attack the stumps, that's better for me.

"It has been hard because the right-handed players they have got are good players of spin. But they may have shown us how to bat against the spinners on this pitch."

And then he made an offer nobody was about to refuse. "The very fact that there is such a long time left takes the draw out of the equation," he said. "If it goes five days I will eat my hat.

"It's an absolute mountain to climb. Our batsmen have a point to prove to themselves and you guys as well," he said, meaning a critical press. "We know that if we're serious about No 1 and staying there we need to come to Asia and beat teams and we haven't done that in this series."

And there was the rub.

Facts: in figures

There have been 41 lbws in the series, two short of the record for a Test series of any length

34: England wrapped up Pakistan's final seven wickets for a paltry amount

157: Azhar Ali's highest Test innings is only his second Test century

36: The overnight score – for no wickets down – is England's highest opening partnership of the series

5: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq has been out lbw five times this series, to four different bowlers – he has appealed five times and lost them all

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific