Graeme Swann did little to ease the anxiety being felt by England fans when he admitted last night: "I'm English so we get nervous about anything."
Swann and Co need to conjure up five more wickets at Lord's today to win the second Ashes Test and end 75 years of Australian dominance at the home of cricket. But the visitors clearly believe they can score another 209 runs to not only extend a remarkable sequence of success but also create a world record.
"Your football team can be four up at half-time and you don't watch the second half," added Swann, and he was only half-joking. "It's going to be a great day's cricket – and it wouldn't be the Ashes if it wasn't like that. I'm just glad these first two Tests are living up to 2005 because the worst thing for me would be to play in my first Ashes series and it be a pile of rubbish."
Australia's target of 522 is 104 runs higher than has ever been achieved in a successful fourth innings pursuit at Test level, but the visitors, having looked down and almost out when they were 128 for 5, will resume this morning – in front of another full house at Lord's – on 313 for 5, thanks to an unbroken stand of 185 between Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin.
"When you play Australia you never expect them to lay down and die, and they haven't," added Swann. "And you always expect a good partnership, especially on a good wicket. It's good for us we have a new ball and everyone will be firing in the morning."
Just as that new ball was taken last night, six overs before bad light halted play, captain Andrew Strauss called his team together for a huddle – a move interpreted as a sign of mounting panic by some. "I wasn't on the field at the time but I can only assume it was a rallying cry," said Swann. "I can understand that some people may view it negatively but I don't see it as a negative thing at all."
Panic? "You don't panic until it's like that Edgbaston Test [in 2005, when Australia lost their last wicket needing threeto win]," added Swann. "It is hard and I think the balance of power is fairly even now, but for Australia to win they still have to break a world record, and that's going to be a very tough ask for them."
Yesterday, three of Australia's first four batsmen could feel hard done by over umpiring decisions. The most controversial incident came when opener Phillip Hughes was given out by on-field official Billy Doctrove, caught grass-high at slip by Strauss, with everyone in the ground expecting the decision to be handed over to third umpire Nigel Llong. A similar incident on Saturday, when Ravi Bopara was batting and Nathan Hauritz the fielder, was referred to Llong who ruled "not out".
"I would like to have seen it go to the third umpire from a consistency point of view," said Australia's coach Tim Nielsen. "I'm very proud – in adversity the team has been able to keep fighting. We feel good."Reuse content