Graeme Swann, it seems, has not been a favourite of England's cricket establishment. Making his international debut more than nine years ago, he has figured in just 12 Test matches and a mere 23 one-day internationals. The reasons being offered were his off-field adventures, with some suggesting his enthusiasm and confidence on the park smacked of arrogance.
But if he can bowl the way he did in Chester-le-Street yesterday against the Australians, he has no reason not to be pompous. The 30-year-old off-spinner put the Australians in a trance with his flight, loop and turn in a 10-over spell to save England from the ignominy of international cricket's first 7-0 whitewash. Swann took five for 28 to skittle Australia for 176 in their final clash; they were 96 for two when he had come on to bowl in the 25th over.
Andrew Strauss (47) and Joe Denly (53) then put England on the road to victory with a 106-run opening stand. They eventually crawled past the finish line, courtesy of a middle-order wobble, in the 41st over for a four-wicket win.In the end, the hosts go into the Champions Trophy this week in South Africa with a consolation win and that is what matters. England had started on a promising note with James Anderson getting a wicket - Shane Watson for a duck - off the fourth ball of the match.
Graham Onions made it 17 for two in the fourth over with the scalp of Tim Paine. The script went to plan thereafter as Swann took centre-stage. He struck with his fourth delivery, tempting Ricky Ponting to drive one that was wide and tossed up. The Australian captain fell for the bait and scooped an easy catch to Paul Collingwood at mid-wicket. The end of Ponting's enterprising knock of 53, and his third-wicket association of 79 with Michael Clarke, started a virtual procession of Australian batsmen. Clarke (38) fell short trying to steal an injudicious single after clipping the ball to Eoin Morgan at short fine leg. Swann then took the next four wickets to fall for his first five-wicket haul in ODIs.