Swann and Strauss propel England
Graeme Swann lived up to his billing as one of the keys to Ashes success for England this winter with four wickets against South Australia.
The off-spinner bagged two tailenders en route to figures of 4-68 at the Adelaide Oval, but if they were cheap statistics in the hosts’ 221 all out, they were fair reward too for Swann’s persistence and gradual improvement.
They helped England chalk up a first-innings lead of 67, which was bolstered by Andrew Strauss’ half-century - to follow up his hundred versus Western Australia - in a close-of-play score of 94 without loss in 23 overs possible.
The tourists lead by 161 heading into the final day of their penultimate warm-up encounter ahead of the opening Test in Brisbane.
Swann, who has taken nine wickets in three innings on tour, and James Anderson shared seven victims this time to fare best among a hard-working England attack.
They chipped away at their hosts but were held up principally by left-handers Aiden Blizzard and Aaron O’Brien.
Swann, Anderson - who claimed 4-68 and 3-62 respectively - and each of England’s other two frontline bowlers put themselves in the wickets column as they seek to fine-tune their Ashes preparations.
Their success or otherwise here is likely to dictate whether they head straight to Queensland, or to Hobart with the rest of the squad to take on Australia A next week.
England this morning saw off both openers in successive balls, and then Ashes hopeful Callum Ferguson, after a rain-delayed start.
Replying to 288 for eight declared in this three-day fixture, SA openers James Smith and Daniel Harris had to contend with heavy cloud cover and fresh bowlers.
England were soon in business when Stuart Broad had Smith driving and edging an outswinger behind, and Anderson struck with the next ball from the river end when Harris clipped a full ball on his pads straight to square-leg.
Captain Michael Klinger and Ferguson therefore had to rebuild without a run between them.
Ferguson, such a success in the NatWest Series in England 14 months ago before injury hit, got off to an unconvincing if rapid start as he stayed slightly leg side to England’s pace and got away with aerial fours either side of gully off Anderson and then Broad.
His attacking intent continued, and became more authoritative as Broad began to tire a little.
But he aimed an ambitious pull at Anderson’s replacement Steven Finn and was undone by a little extra bounce and a tight off-stump line, splicing a simple catch to mid-on.
Klinger and Blizzard then shared a stand of 57 either side of lunch, and another short rain break, but Anderson soon had his second wicket when Klinger tried to cut an innocuous ball and was caught in the gully.
The Lancastrian saved his best delivery for new batsman Graham Manou, who got one that kicked from short of a length to see him off caught at slip for a duck.
When Blizzard then picked out Anderson on the deep-square boundary, sweeping at Swann, England already had obvious prospects of a significant first-innings lead.
That soon became a near certainty, after debutant Tim Lang holed out at mid-on off Swann and Finn bowled Jake Haberfield off his pads with the last ball before tea.
But the last two wickets scrambled 45 runs, thanks to O’Brien’s skill and resourcefulness.
He was dropped on 15 by Jonathan Trott, leaping one-handed on the long-leg boundary to try to intercept a hook off Finn and managing for his trouble only a painful landing on his shoulder.
Swann eventually eked 10 and 11 out for four each to leave their partner unbeaten seven runs short of what would have been a deserved fifty.
England openers Strauss, who closed on 56 not out, and Alastair Cook faced a potentially awkward session of batting under the floodlights in ever more murky conditions.
That they came through so impressively must have been a particular relief to Cook, who has had a notable struggle for runs in recent times but appeared in control throughout as the home seamers bowled too short.
They fed Strauss the pull, one of his favourite shots, and he took advantage by twice depositing Lang into the new Western Grandstand for six.
He added another slog-swept maximum off O’Brien’s spin to add to five fours and complete a near run-a-ball fifty to continue England’s serene progress through the fifth day's cricket on this high-profile tour.