The Barmy Army's New Year celebrations were off to an early start after England cruised to one of their more memorable wins away from home, humbling South Africa by an innings and 98 yesterday. The win at Kingsmead, Durban, in the second Test of the four-match series, and the final match of this decade, puts England just a win - or two draws - away from their second consecutive Test series triumph on South African soil. It would also be their third consecutive Test series win, following earlier triumphs over West Indies and Australia at home. England's last away series win came last year in New Zealand, and the last time they defeated South Africa by an innings was in 1964.
The heroes of that win - also in Durban - were two off-spinners answering to the names of Fred Titmus and David Allen. The pair shared 10 wickets between them. This time around, Graeme Swann alone took nine of the 20 South African wickets. It was a fitting end to the year for the off-spinner, who has spent much of his career on the periphery of the international stage. Like England, who started the year with an embarrassing 51 all out in Kingston, Swann has risen up the charts and finishes 2009 with 54 wickets, becoming the first England spinner to cross 50 scalps in a year. The 30-year-old's haul is second only to Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson's 63.
Swann's performance seems even more remarkable when you consider his 12 Tests this year have been spread across West Indies, England and South Africa, where spin-friendly wickets are a rarity. Ahead of the third Test in Cape Town starting on January 3, England have called up batsman Michael Carberry as cover for Paul Collingwood who dislocated his left index finger at Kingsmead. Left-armer Johnson, meanwhile, had a fruitful final game of the year, adding six wickets to his tally as Australia defeated Pakistan by 170 runs in the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne yesterday. Australia have taken a 1-0 series lead.