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Wickets extra special for Swann

Graeme Swann is delighted to be back taking wickets for England having produced his best performance since elbow surgery.

The off-spinner missed the 0-0 series draw in New Zealand a few months ago, but returned for the two-match Investec rubber.

Having not really had chance to make an impact in a 170-run victory at Lord’s, Swann played an integral role today.

He claimed 4-42 to help dismiss the Black Caps for 174 in response to England’s 354.

“It’s only third time I’ve bowled since the operation,” he said. “Having the operation and having such a big summer ahead, it’s important to get wickets under your belt.

“I was optimistic I’d be able to perform but whether you’ll have rhythm and spin you’re never sure, so I am delighted it seems to be coming out nicely.

“It feels like it did 18 months ago again, which is very encouraging for me.”

While seeing Swann back to his best will no doubt have delighted team director Andy Flower, even he might not have expected such a performance at Headingley.

Spinners traditionally do not prosper at the ground, the main factor in England choosing to leave out Swann for last year’s Test against South Africa.

The tweaker himself had, therefore, played only one five-day encounter in Leeds, going wicketless against Australia in 2009.

“Today was my first wickets at Headingley,” he added. “Matt Prior pointed that out to me just before I came on.

“I was in North Wales on a camp site during the South Africa Test last year so it is nice to play and get a bowl.

“With New Zealand’s left-armers, there are footholes outside off stump, which is nice for an off-spinner.”

Swann’s efforts meant captain Alastair Cook had the option to enforce the follow-on given the target was 150 runs less than England’s score, rather than the usual 200, as the first day was washed out.

They opted not to and Cook subsequently led from the front, striking 88 not out as the hosts closed with a lead of 196 on 116 for one.

When asked about the follow-on, a no doubt difficult decision given the weather forecast is poor on Tuesday, Swann added: “It was a unanimous decision.

“The best way to win that game was to put a tired New Zealand side back in the field - with bowlers not happy to bowl again - build a formidable lead, let the pitch deteriorate, and bowl them out in the second innings.

“I always ignore the British weather forecast," said Swann. "If you look at things like that you’re missing the point.

“If it rains Tuesday, it does. I can’t remember sitting in a dressing room where a two-day forecast has been believed. It was meant to be banging it down last week and we played.”

Cook’s runs in the evening session capped a miserable day for the tourists, who now face an uphill battle as they attempt to avoid a 2-0 series defeat.

“We have to give credit to England,” said batsman Ross Taylor. “They did put us under pressure and we didn’t get the runs we would have liked.”

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