Swann the shining light as pace men struggle

England 329-8 dec South Africa XI 167-7 (Match drawn)

Some cricket at last. Six hours of it, all in a row. Most pleasant it was, too, as the sun shone over Buffalo Park, an infrequent, almost unknown sight anywhere England have been lately.

Whether it said anything about the first Test or what the composition of the tourists' team might be, or who might play a major role in it is extremely doubtful. England batted in the morning, agreeably and efficiently on a slow pitch before declaring at 329 for 8, and bowled in the afternoon in a similar style, reducing the South Africa Invitation XI to 167 for 7.

Graeme Swann was prominent in both departments, striking a carefree 39 from 31 balls before taking 6 for 55 from 16 overs. He achieved some bounce and turn, albeit hardly venomous in either category. He took his first wicket with his second ball and his last three came in four balls. The batsmen of the South Africa Invitation XI did not deal with him adequately, but then they were being subjected to gentle barbs by England.

As Swann prepared for his hat-trick ball – having had the grandly named Sammy-Joe Avontuur stumped for a determined 61 and David Wiese caught at slip – the England wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, reminded the incoming batsman, Mangaliso Mosehle of an old truth. "Remember you should never cut an off-spinner or pat a burning dog," he said.

Mosehle was virtually doubled up with mirth as the ball narrowly sailed over the top of the stumps and was still laughing when he essayed an extravagant drive at the next ball which turned and bowled him through a vast gate.

Swann, however, pronounced himself gutted. He has never taken a hat-trick in any form of cricket at any level and knew a better opportunity will never present itself.

England will have been heartened to see him in such good order without running away with the notion that he is their ace in the pack for taking 20 South African wickets.

If South Africa is not quite a spinners' graveyard it is not fertile territory for them in Tests either. In 88 Test matches since their readmission, spinners have nine times taken five wickets or more in an innings. Compare that to the 30 occasions it has happened in 110 matches in England during the same period.

After so much inaction this was more a blowing off the cobwebs day than a dress rehearsal for the way in which England might approach the serious stuff in Centurion next week. It is a truism that professional cricketers love rain because it affords them the chance to have some illicit time off work.

But they have had too much of a good thing lately. The sights of East London – which more or less amount to the stuffed coelacanth fish in the museum and the casino in the new shopping mall, not both of which have been visited by the players – have begun to pall. The day job had begun to look most appealing again.

It was astonishing that play on the second and final day of their penultimate warm-up match before the first Test begins on 16 December, started on time. Only 12 hours before, the ground had been under water and while strictly speaking it was probably not fit it is remarkable what can be achieved when needs must. Never can a ground have been covered in so much sawdust to absorb the dampness, enough, it seemed, to require the devastation of a couple of Amazonian rain forests.

In its way, this was an important day for the tourists in their attempt to find the rhythm of long form, white-garbed, red ball cricket again. The overnight fourth-wicket partnership between Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood was soon broken and Ian Bell and Matt Prior then did much as they liked, bedding down and enjoying what amounted to a net practice in the middle. They were both retired out, Bell on 48, which is the type of score for which too often lately he has been dismissed, so perhaps the management were doing him a favour.

It remains difficult to see him being in the Test side if England decide on five batsmen, as seems likely, with Prior at number six and looking every inch like a number six. After their time was up, Swann had a high old time.

Of England's seam bowlers, Mark Davies of Durham, who in the squad as temporary cover, bowled splendidly. He was right on the button, though he might be a shade slow for the highest level. Broad needs more bowling.

Jimmy Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom will both play in the two-day match starting today, anxious to show that knee and side injuries have cleared up. If Anderson is unable to bowl at full tilt, England may have to revise their plans.

Buffalo Park: Scoreboard

Tour Match Second day of two

England won toss

England First Innings

Overnight: 142-3.

A N Cook c Bossenger b Pietersen 81

P D Collingwood c van Wyk b Ntshona 33

I R Bell retd out 48

†M J Prior retd out 44

S C J Broad b Weise 15

G P Swann not out 39

G Onions not out 13

Extras (lb1 w1 nb17) 19

Total (8 wkts dec, 78 overs) 329

Fall: 1-4, 2-22, 3-91, 4-148, 5-176, 6-259, 7-259, 8-288.

Did not bat: M Davies.

Bowling: Pietersen 18-2-71-3; Ntshona 11-0-46-1; Weise 18-2-89-2; Adams 15-3-51-0; Van Neikerk 12-0-53-0; Bossenger 4-0-18-0.

South African XI First innings

D van Wyk lbw b Swann 27

A P Agathagelou lbw b Onions 5

S E Avontuur st Prior b Swann 68

T Bavuma c Cook b Swann 6

R M van Neikerk c & b Swann 8

*W Bossenger not out 35

D Weise c Collingwood b Swann 0

†M Mosehle b Swann 0

C Pietersen not out 16

Extras (lb2) 2

Total (7 wkts, 47 overs) 167

Fall: 1-15, 2-57, 3-81, 4-100, 5-145, 6-145, 7-145.

Did not bat: R A Adams, Ntshona.

Bowling: Onions 10-2-31-1; Broad 11-2-55-0; Davies 10-4-24-0; Swann 16-2-55-6.

Umpires: S George and B G Jerling.

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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas