Swann proud to pass Laker
Graeme Swann spoke of his pride at becoming England’s most prolific Test off-spinner on the opening day of the series with India.
Almost four years since his Test debut, made versus the same opponents, Swann’s second wicket of four took him past Jim Laker’s 193 in two less innings.
Swann’s breakthroughs were the only ones the tourists managed as India exploited winning a vital toss to reach 323 for four at Ahmedabad’s Sardar Patel Stadium.
The Nottinghamshire bowler, who snared Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his first Test over, was England’s outstanding performer during a tough day on which Virender Sehwag hit a run-a-ball 117 and Cheteshwar Pujara was unbeaten with 98.
“It is a proud moment,” said the 33-year-old, who returned 4-85 from 32 overs. “I’m always saying I’m not one for stats. But when people told me I was near to Jim Laker, I was genuinely excited.
“When you’re growing up, famous names from the game, you never even dream of emulating them - let alone going past their record. So I’m very honoured to go past him today.”
The legendary Laker claimed 19 Australia wickets at Old Trafford in 1956, whereas the most Swann has managed in a Test is 10 - on two occasions.
Having been reminded it is possible for him to take 20 in this game, Swann responded: “That’s a very good point. That really is the glass half-full. Why not? I’ve taken four, so I’ll go to bed tonight and dream of 20 wickets!”
Three of today’s scalps were clean bowled while Sachin Tendulkar, who took his Test tally to 15,533 runs 23 years to the day since his India bow, holed out to leg for the other.
Asked if there is a special satisfaction in snaring Test cricket’s highest run-scorer, Swann replied: “There is.
“Just the noise that erupted in the ground when he walked out to bat ... he hadn’t even left the changing room, and you know who’s coming in.
“It’s always nice to get him, and get him early as well - because he’s the greatest player still playing the game.”
Although Swann shone, Sehwag’s batting was the most memorable feature of an exciting day.
He raced to three figures from 90 balls, adding 134 for the first wicket with Gambhir and 90 for the second with Pujara who consolidated after the opener’s departure.
“From the first few overs, we realised we were in for the long haul over here,” Swann said.
“The way ’Viru’ batted from the off, he took the game away from us in that first couple of hours. So it was important to pull it back.
“That first session was very tough, and we had a guy in exceptional form. They undoubtedly won that session. But I think we won the second, and the third was fairly even.”
Swann put the day in perspective, adding: “Having lost the toss on that pitch, we’d obviously have liked five or six wickets - but we’ll take four.
“I think we all came back very strong. At lunchtime, we sat down and came up with a new gameplan - because I don’t think we bowled quite straight enough in the first session.
“On a pitch that is low and slow, you’ve got to attack the stumps a bit more. I think we did that, as the day went on, and that’s why we got more wickets - and pulled the run-rate back, especially.”
Sehwag’s 23rd Test ton came just over two years since his last - at the same venue against New Zealand.
“Every hundred is important,” he said. “This one was due, after two years. So I’m very pleased to have scored one after a long time ... and at the right time, in the first innings of the first Test.”
Once he has to field, Sehwag knows it will be hard to take 20 England wickets unless the pitch deteriorates.
“The first three batsman were trying to hit (big shots) and got out,” he added. “If you try to block, it’s difficult to get out. The wicket is very slow; it’s turning, but not sharply.”