Swann eyes England response
Graeme Swann believes England can conquer Pakistan seamer Umar Gul and claim a 2-1 Twenty20 international series victory.
Gul ended England’s hopes in last night’s first match of three at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, where his 3-18 included the wicket of top-scorer Ravi Bopara and then two in two balls in his final over.
The upshot was an England defeat by eight runs, in pursuit of 144.
Renowned as one of the world’s toughest opponents in the shortest format, Gul’s expertise with reverse-swing and inch-perfect yorkers scuppered England when it seemed they had put themselves in a winning position.
As Swann today pointed out, England certainly did just that on the way to a 4-0 one-day international series whitewash of Pakistan - in which Gul took 1-155 in 22 overs, before catching a cold and missing the final fixture.
“He bowled very well, but in some of the one-dayers we really got after him,” said Swann, who believes cricket’s narrow margins are never more so than in its shortest format.
“Twenty20 is one of those games - it proved that way for me last night. I got three wickets for hardly any runs. On another day it could have been none for 40 or none for 50. We certainly won’t do what a lot of people think we should and panic about it.”
The problem for England, and Pakistan for that matter, was that - despite a string of batsmen who made double-figures - no-one could reach 40.
“We always talk about the guys who get in going on to finish the game,” added Swann. “That’s the same in any format - it’s always easier for the guys who are in.
“We’ve a couple of guys who are in very good form, and they got 30s last night where on another day, they could easily have been match-winning 60s or 70s. I’m sure that’ll happen next time.”
Swann has no doubt, in fact, that England will be roused to protect that number-one status tomorrow and then to finish their tour on a high on Monday.
“We’ve just beaten these guys 4-0 in the ODI series, so confidence is still sky high,” he added.
“Had Kevin Pietersen stayed in for three or four more overs, we’d have won in 10 overs the way he was going. He’s looking in ominous form at the top of the order.”
Many other winning factors are in place too, according to Swann - who admits he was the only one who let Stuart Broad’s side down in the field, if not with his career-best bowling figures of 3-13.
“The bowlers are bowling well, and the fielders are taking catches - I don’t see any reason why we can’t win the next two,” he said.
“Ninety per cent of our fielding was fantastic. It was just me - I was the 10 per cent that let the team down. I don’t think you can fault the effort from the lads, especially the young whippersnappers running around - Jonny Bairstow was exceptional.
“Eoin Morgan has been the best fielder on the trip so far; KP is still pulling out the stops. I think we were very good in the field."
Swann, naturally, had mixed feelings that his efforts did not help England to win the match.
“I’ve just been told they were my best figures in Twenty20 cricket – which I didn’t know – so I’m very happy with that,” he added.
“The ball came out of the hand nicely. It’s always nice to get (Shahid) Afridi out early, because he’s a very dangerous player and we were delighted with how it went in the field. It’s just disappointing it wasn’t part of a winning performance.”