SIX WICKETS in New Zealand’s second innings and 10 in the match further emphasised the importance of spinner Graeme Swann to England as they wrapped up a comfortable and predictable 2-0 series win at Headingley yesterday.
He’s the best off-spinner in the world. He’s a confident performer and doesn’t let the side down. He’s vastly experienced, has played all over the world, and is the life and soul of the dressing room.
It’s more difficult to be a spinner now that it once was, but as a cricketer Swann is terrific. Great English spinners of the past like Jim Laker and Derek Underwood were not able to bat as well as Swann and tended to bowl on pitches that were wet. Cricket is completely different now, but Swann is certainly up there with the best.
He bowled 41 overs in the match, the majority of them in the final two days, and appeared to have no adverse reaction to his elbow injury, which will have delighted the selectors and captain Alastair Cook.
Cook came in for a bit of flak for not forcing the follow-on, or declaring earlier in the day on Monday. But England were 1-0 up in the series, so why give the other side any chance at all? It became at bit tense with the rain, but England will be very satisfied with the series win.
The players will have gained a lot of confidence. Everyone contributed. The only bowler without many wickets was Steven Finn, but they can’t all get wickets all the time.
For all the talk about the bowlers, batsman Joe Root was named man of the series and he’s certainly cemented his place for the Ashes. You just can’t leave him out. Whether he’s there for all five Tests remains to be seen, but he’ll certainly be there for the next three and then they’ll judge his form.
So if Kevin Pietersen can prove his fitness in the coming weeks Jonny Bairstow seems the obvious, unlucky player who will miss out.
The one-day internationals start on Friday and it will be interesting to see who is selected. Tim Bresnan will play, I’m sure. He has no other Tests now and needs a good run out. And with the Champions Trophy fast approaching, one-day coach Ashley Giles will be watching closely.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has also been chairman and captain of Warwickshre.