Extra time allows Swann to flourish

 
Andy Lloyd
OUR cricket columnist, former England batsman and Warwickshire chairman Andy Lloyd, has been poring over all the Ashes action. Here he dissects what he’s learned from the play so far.

SWANN IN A MILLION
If Shane Warne, the greatest spinner of all time, rates Graeme Swann as the best around, then who are we to argue? And the star of England’s attack has lived up to his reputation in the second Test with some absolutely terrific bowling. It’s much harder to bat when you are chasing a big total; it plays into the hands of bowlers, giving them more time, and Swann’s quality has duly shone through. His figures show he has bowled beautifully, and I’ve no doubt he’ll continue to do so as the series goes on. The pitch in Adelaide has given him a bit more than Brisbane did, and the conditions bode well as there should be more turn on offer in Sydney and Perth.

PONTING: HE’S NOT THAT BAD
Ricky Ponting has come under increasing pressure but I’m not one of those who thinks the Australia captain is about to be axed – even if they lose the Ashes series. I can’t see him stepping down – the one thing I know about him is he’s not a quitter – and I really doubt whether they’ll ask him to. He is the best player in that side by a long way and, until yesterday anyway, the man tipped to replace him, Michael Clarke, has shown very little.

TEAMWORK AIDING ENGLAND
Cricket is the individual team game, and England’s success at the moment is a genuine team effort. Witness Kevin Pietersen chipping in with the crucial wicket of Michael Clarke in the final over of Tuesday’s play, or the kind of excellent collaborative fielding displays for which the Aussies, not England, have traditionally been better known. You can also see it in the way Andrew Strauss and his men celebrate every decision; the body language shows this England team is pulling in the same direction.

THE ALL-ROUNDER |
STATS AND BANTER

STATS OF THE DAY
It’s 17 Tests since Australia dropped a batsman and it’s 22 years since Australia went four Tests without a victory.

Kevin Pietersen now has five Test match wickets. His last scalp was that of South Africa’s Dale Steyn at Lord’s in July 2008.

Xavier Doherty is the ninth spinner selected by Australia in Tests since the retirement of Shane Warne in 2007.

Shane Watson’s conversion rate from half centuries to centuries is just 15.3 per cent.

FIGHTING TALK
“You may have noticed he likes to bat a bit. It would take a braver man than me to get him to take his pads off and do some bowling in the nets.” Graeme Swann reveals England’s Kevin Pietersen is very much the reluctant all-rounder.

“Why did they need six batsmen on a one of the flattest pitches I’ve ever seen. They only needed five, look at the scores and the attack they’re facing. England were scared and frightened for no reason. It’s the modern way but I don’t want to go down that road again.” Geoff Boycott does a terrible job of not ‘going down that road again’.

“Swann, Swann will tear you apart, again.” The Barmy Army take inspiration from Joy Division’s classic to pay tribute to England’s off-spinner.

“Now I'm 33 off out for a civilised evening with the wife it’s what people my age do. Pedalo on standby though just in case.” Andrew Flintoff claims to be planning a quiet one. Oh how times have changed.