On the Front Foot: Swann is a phenomenon but he is playing to different rules

Stephen Brenkley@stephenbrenkley
Sunday 03 January 2010 01:00

In Graeme Swann's dramatic rise to the top of his profession the role of leg before wicket has played the most prominent role. Of Swann's 62 wickets, no fewer than 26 have been lbw. At 42 per cent of the total, this is a considerably higher proportion than any other bowler in the game with more than 50 Test wickets. In second place on 34 per cent (that is 58 of his 170 wickets) is the Australian swinger Terry Alderman. Swann has been aided and abetted by a much more flexible interpretation of Law 36 (about time too), his ability to get drift and turn while attacking the stumps, and the decision review system which will play an increasingly significant part in the conduct and outcome of Tests. To compare Swann to other England slow bowlers is to conclude that they must have been playing to different rules. After 14 Tests he already has the third most lbw victims. Other off-spinners include Jim Laker, who had 32 lbw victims in his total of 193, Fred Titmus (23 from 153), John Emburey (16 from 147), Ray Illingworth (12 from 122) and David Allen (nine from 122). No fewer than 37, or 59.7 per cent, of Swann's victims have been left-handers. Benedict Bermange, the Sky Sports statistician, points out that no bowler with more than 40 wickets has dismissed left-handers for more than half of them. Small wonder that when England coach Andy Flower was asked if Swann would have got him out, he replied: "Yes, probably, and probably lbw."

Sky's the limit for Beeb

As the BBC limbers up to screen Test cricket once more, presumably under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (section nine, protection of other species), figures have been produced to show what it is up against. In 2009 Sky showed 3,501 hours of cricket, including 263 days of live cricket. In only one week, 11 to 17 October, was there no cricket coverage. That must have been the week that Sky Towers in Isleworth was marched on by cricket fans demanding a fix. The 228 live games included 29 Tests, 60 one-dayers and 63 county matches (there will be 69 next year). There were also 12 women's matches. The BBC has its fans but it must show a proper commitment to the game. Anybody could get excited about an Ashes match at Lord's; try a damp night at Chelmsford in September.

Strauss is captain marvel

Andrew Strauss has some record to sustain at Newlands this week. He has lost only two of the 19 Tests in which he has been captain. Of the 31 who have been captain in more than 10 matches, only Douglas Jardine, who led in 15 matches, has lost fewer.

Allen's record still spinning

David Allen, mentioned above, was a key part of England's last victory at Durban, in 1964. He took seven wickets in the match, including 5 for 41 in the first innings, still the best figures by an England off-spinner at the ground – one record, then, that Swann has not annexed.


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